Can god be all powerful and all knowing?

Hello, and how is everyone in the world-wide web going,

In today’s post I am going to be discussing one of the many holes in the logic of many religions with a god. It is based on two logical assertions, each of which has been proposed and backed up by my Ethics and Faith teacher. These are the two ‘facts’ that my teacher puts forward:
1. God is all-knowing, and ever-present, he just IS, he exists from the start of time to the end of time, hanging over it, being there.
2. God is all-powerful, everything happens according to his will, he can change anything to make anything happen, and nothing is out of the reach of his power.

There is no way this is logically possible. Think about it. If god is all-knowing, he can see the future, right? He can tell what is going to happen tomorrow, who is going to die, whose teams are going to win the football and what I’m having for lunch. He also knows where all the electrons are in all the atoms (that’s just impossible to know, even if you are god.), how much stuff all of the neutrinos are going to go through before they hit something, and whether or not Schrödinger’s cat is going to survive.

If it is also true then that god is all-powerful, then he can do whatever he wants, whenever he wants, and there is nothing anybody can do about it.
If god already knows what the lotto numbers are going to be, then how can he change them? If god already knows I am going to wake up at 4am and play COD for the next 14 hours, then how can he make me go to church?

the answer is that he can’t, because it is just logically impossible. Now god has limits, and that is not allowed (I haven’t found a single christian who thinks that god is limited). But he must, because he just has to be limited.

It also brings up the question… if you were god, would you rather be all-knowing or all-powerful? I would take all-powerful, because if you were all-knowing then no TV programs would be enjoyable if you already know the ending. Let me know if you would choose anything different, I would be interested to hear your argument.

I’m done now, I will leave you with a quote from Douglas Adams, ” A man didn’t understand how televisions work, and was convinced that there must be lots of little men inside the box, manipulating images at high-speed. An engineer explained to him about high frequency modulations of the electromagnetic spectrum, about transmitters and receivers, about amplifiers and cathode ray tubes, about scan lines moving across and down a phosphorescent screen. The man listened to the engineer with careful attention, nodding his head at every step of the argument. At the end he pronounced himself satisfied. He really did now understand how televisions work. “But I expect there are just a few little men in there, aren’t there?””, Douglas Adams, Atheist, Dramatist and Writer of some note.

Oh yeah, and a little shout out to my school-mate Logan, he can jog on.

45 thoughts on “Can god be all powerful and all knowing?

  1. And this is one of main reasons christian fight and quarrel on doctrine, for this exact reason. They emphasis all-knowing, and not the all powerful. Or they emphasis all-power and not the all knowing. And this is one of the reasons we have the Armenian vs Calvinistic debate.

    Calvinist- God is all-knowing, and man has no free will
    Armenian- God is all-powerful, and through him all things are possible

    • I too have read the bible and all its contradictions, and I can’t tell wether it is biased towards all-knowing or all-powerful, but the christian childrens books I have also read definately emphasize both.

  2. I think your criticism is a bit off in this post. You’re limiting the concept of an all-powerful and all-knowing God by imparting human conditions onto Him which do not actually apply to Him. But even then, theologians, professional religious adherents, claim that God can only do what is logically possible. For if God can do what is logically impossible, why even bother talking about philosophy or theology? It would make no difference. Take for example the statement “God exists.” If God exists but is all-powerful in a supralogically way, then God can make the statements “God exists” and “God doesn’t exist” both be true. But if they are both true, why bother discussing God at all? Both sides are in a way, correct. God does and doesn’t exist. Thus, if God is able to do anything, including creating logical impossibilities, then we have no reason to discuss God in any kind of meaningful way. We reach the largest of all philosophical impasses that no man can push through. Therefore God can only do what is logically possible.

    Not only that, you fail to mention the controversy over the definition of God’s existence. Is God timeless, i.e., He does not exist in a way that time is measured or can affect Him, or is God eternal meaning that He has been around since the very beginning of time and will continue to exist forever? Each side has significant differences for the characteristics of God. Check out this link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eternity#God_and_eternity and if you get the time, read Four Views of Divine Providence written by Dr. William Lane Craig and 3 other scholars. Interesting concepts.

    • For this exersize I was taking the stance that sort of god did exist, to prove the point that that sort of god can’t exist. I was saying ‘if this is true, then it can’t be true.’ to say god can do logically impossible things in rebuttal to this argument is absurd because if he can do logically impossible things, then he is illogical and then also by definition, non-existant.

  3. But you don’t even make a convincing argument that God cannot be both omnipotent and omniscient. You state, “There is no way this is logically possible. Think about it.” Yet look at the excerpt. You beg the question! You make a claim and then leave it up to the reader to refute it or agree with it. That’s not only intellectually lazy, but dishonest as well. You can’t make arguments, especially convincing ones, by not going into detail what exactly it is that you’re trying to say.

    You also state “He also knows where all the electrons are in all the atoms (that’s just impossible to know, even if you are god.)” But it’s not. This is the point that I was trying to make earlier. Just because you apply certain logical or mental limits to God, that does not mean that such limits actually constrain God. You’re applying human finitude to an immaterial, infinite, entity. It’s like applying non-infinite rules of math to finite math. Of course the result is going to be incoherent and absurd, but it’s because you’re looking at it the wrong way.

    And I wasn’t offering a rebuttal, but an explanation. I’m telling you, on behalf of a wide array of theologians and philosophers, that God can only do what is logically possible. Furthermore, there is no inherent contradiction between being omnipotent and omniscient. Would you like to know how I know? Let’s have a refresher in logic.

    A bachelor is an unmarried man.

    Look at that statement. Seems correct, right? Makes logical sense. Well, what happens when we negate or modify this statement?

    A bachelor is NOT an unmarried man.

    Here we run into a logical contradiction. Unless the person is using a definition of “bachelor” that does not mean “an unmarried man,” the statement is clearly false. But what about statements about God’s omniscience and omnipotence?

    God is omnipotent.

    God is omnipotent and omniscient.

    There is no contradiction. Or if there is, you have yet to explore it. So if there is a contradiction between God’s omniscience and omnipotence, you have to show it. You have to develop or create or discover an instance which makes God’s abilities conflict in such a way that there is no logical explanation. You have to develop a scenario in which God’s omniscience and omnipotence is illogical and inexplicable and therefore must be false. But since you have not done this, your blog post has failed its mission, missed its goal, whatever you’d like to call it.

    Those were the points I was trying to make to you. I hope you take these things to heart and mind and truly reflect upon them before spouting off nonsense too quickly.

    All the best.

    • When you say it IS possible to know where an electron is, you are showing how ignorant of quantum mechanics you are, the heisenberg uncertainty principle states that you cannot know where and with what velocity a particle is moving, and for sub-atomic particles there is just no way of knowing, because it is just a law of nature, it just is IMPOSSIBLE to know.

      Where you say my argument that it is impossible because you should think about it, that is a straw man because in THAT VERY SAME paragraph I say that being all-knowing means you can see the future, but being all-powerful means you can change the future, which you can’t do if you know what is going to happen already.

    • The point of this blog was to show that an all-powerful and all-knowing (with the conventional definition) god is logically impossible.
      I did not set out to prove that any sort of god exists, just that this sort of god cannot exist.

  4. I would suggest there are at least two flaws in the argument presented at the beginning of your post.

    1. “God is all-powerful, everything happens according to his will” This assumes God exercises his sovereignty, but he doesn’t need to do that. He could be all-powerful, but doesn’t always use his power, and allows other beings with lesser power (like us) to have autonomy.

    2. “he can see the future, right? He can tell what is going to happen tomorrow” But most theists believe God exists outside of time (time was only created, along with matter and energy and space, at the big bang). So there’s no tomorrow with God, no future, just an eternal now.

    Change those two things and I think you’ll find the argument goes nowhere. What do you reckon?

    • even if god is separate from time, he can always see what is coming next for us, and he can’t change that without damaging his all-knowing way. If he is all-powerful, then he has to exercise his power, or he is by definition, not all-powerful.

      • G’day ST, that was a fast response!

        I can’t agree with the logic of either of your statements here, I’m sorry.

        “even if god is separate from time, he can always see what is coming next for us, and he can’t change that without damaging his all-knowing way”

        You are still missing the point I think. His knowing and his acting are both in an eternal present, one doesn’t come before the other. So it’s not like God is some forgetful geriatric who thinks “I think I’ll heal Frank – oh rats, I missed my chance, because I know I didn’t heal him. Next time, I will heal before I use foreknowledge!”

        God sees what is coming next for us because that is what he is deciding to allow.

        “If he is all-powerful, then he has to exercise his power, or he is by definition, not all-powerful.”

        I say God is all-powerful, but doesn’t always use his power. Are you saying God must always use his power? What is the logic here? A person only has a characteristic if they are always using it??? That can’t be right. Was Beethoven not a composer because he sometimes slept? Mike Tyson wasn’t a more powerful boxer than you or me because he never knocked us out? I don’t think this is a valid point.

        • your second argument is illogical, there is a difference between ‘having some composing skill’ (in the case of beethoven) and having ‘being ALL-powerful’, the ALL is the difference here. Even if he doesn’t use his power all the time, then he is extremely callous and mean.
          You say god sees everything as an eternal present, well. You could then characterize him as being the reader of a book he already knows the plot too, written in the present tense. Despite being in the present where ever he goes, he still has no control over the book.

  5. “your second argument is illogical”

    My second argument is simply this: Having power is not the same as using power. Having does not necessarily entail using. Where is the illogic in that?

    Just because Beethoven’s skill is not as great as God’s power makes no difference to the argument. Having does not necessarily entail using.

    And I think you have more or less admitted you know this, when you say: ?”Even if he doesn’t use his power all the time, then he is extremely callous and mean.” But that is a different argument, for another day.

    So having doesn’t necessarily entail using, and thus the argument falls flat.

    “You say god sees everything as an eternal present, well. You could then characterize him as being the reader of a book he already knows the plot too, written in the present tense. Despite being in the present where ever he goes, he still has no control over the book.”

    Unfortunately, this argument still misses the point. I have just finished reading (again) the last Harry Potter book. I already knew the plot because I had read it before, so I knew how it ended and couldn’t change it. True. But it is different when JK Rowling reads it, because she wrote it. She wrote it before she reads it again. She could have changed it when she wrote it, but now it is written she cannot change it.

    That’s what it’s like with God. He decides what he does at the same time as he knows what he does, but the deciding comes logically before the knowing. So like JK Rowling, he can easily control what happens if he chooses, and then he knows.

    Your argument is invalid because you assume God sees the future before he acts, when that is illogical.

    It really is an unsound argument, and it can only make people wonder why anyone would propound it. If that is the best non-believers can do, believers are on very safe ground.

    I’m sorry if this comment sounds confrontational, I am trying to avoid that. I tried to show you gently that the argument you quote has some obvious wrong assumptions, but if you want to keep defending those wrong assumptions, may I suggest you actually try to construct a formal logical argument and see if you can justify all the premises. I don’t believe it can be done. Best wishes.

    • I added the ‘callous and mean’ in a secondary argument, to show that the alternative is no better.
      I agree that having does not entail using, but there is a difference between ‘having some’ and ‘having all’, and ‘having all’ does entail exercise.
      It also brings up the point of ‘What is the difference between an all-powerful god who doesn’t use his powers, and a non-all-powerful god?’ there is no difference.
      J.K. Rowling has already written the book when she reads the published one through again, she can’t change the books plot now it is published.
      If god sees all of time as ever-present, then he has also already published the entire book, as well as knowing the plot of the book, at the start of it, and then he can’t change it once our start has happened. Seeing it published means it is all published, and that means he cannot change his plot half-way through, if it is already published.
      That brings up the same old logical contradiction that we had before, and to be honest mate, I’ve gone through this all in my head, and it ‘turtles all the way down’. No matter how much you look at the problem, there is still always that same logical contradiction.
      Same as with maths, no matter how much you mess around with an equation, the numbers still match up at the end.

      • “I agree that having does not entail using, but there is a difference between ‘having some’ and ‘having all’, and ‘having all’ does entail exercise.”

        Well, it is good we now agree that “having does not necessarily entail using”. Of course it does entail exercise, as you say, but doesn’t entail exercising all the time. So that is enough to scuttle the argument.

        “‘What is the difference between an all-powerful god who doesn’t use his powers, and a non-all-powerful god?’ there is no difference.”

        Of course there’s a difference, just not one that we’d notice. But it doesn’t matter – he is powerful enough.

        “If god sees all of time as ever-present, then he has also already published the entire book, as well as knowing the plot of the book, at the start of it, and then he can’t change it once our start has happened.”

        You are still not thinking correctly. God can’t foresee or know an action unless he has decided it will happen. So an action is not “locked in” by his seeing, but by his deciding. So there is no lack of power, no contradiction. Once you see that “foreseeing” or knowing can only occur once the action has been decided, you’ll see there’s no logical contradiction.

        “No matter how much you look at the problem, there is still always that same logical contradiction.”

        This just illustrates how bad an argument this is. Because you have trouble wrapping your head around it, therefore God must be contradictory?? That’s not an argument.

        I think I have said enough. We have two inconsistencies in your argument. One you have admitted. The other you cannot really explain. It really isn’t an effective argument, is it?

        My (rhetorical) question to you is: How many other of the arguments you think show God doesn’t exist are similarly ineffective?? Something to think about.

        Thanks for the opportunity to comment, and the civil way we have been able to discuss. Best wishes.

        • There is no difference between an all-powerful but not using god, and a non-all-powerful god, because then if there were a difference, then we would have that logical problem again.
          God may have all-power, but he can’t use his all-power because he logically can’t if he is all-knowing, which is essentially the same as what I originally brought up.
          So if nothing is locked in until he decides what is going to happen, and his deciding on what happens makes that decision, then he is not all-knowing because he does not know what he is going to lock in until he decides, he does not know what will happen until he decides, meaning that he does not know everything, if he has not decided it yet. If he cannot ‘foresee’ until he makes his decision, then he is either all-knowing, by deciding; or all-powerful, by leaving it open, he still cannot have both.
          Thank you for bringing that argument up, because it actually supports my cause, not yours. Remember to dig to the bottom of the logical hole before showing it to me, because if you didn’t dig that whole all the way to China, I will.

          When i say there is always a logical contradiction, I am not displaying an argument from ignorance, because I am actually displaying that you CANNOT make sense of it. Logic is different to science in that you don’t know everything about science, and never can; but you always know everything in logic, because logic this understanding of contradictions.

          I would like to ask if you could put your coin down on one definition of an all-powerful, all-knowing god, just describe him to me. Because at the moment you have two separate theories, and they are both inconsistent with each other. On the one hand you have a god that is all-powerful, but does not (and cannot) use his powers, and all-knowing, and on the other hand you have an all-powerful god who decides upon every action in the universe, giving him full power, but no foreseeing knowledge.
          Give me… about a paragraph, or two, please. Pick your god, and bet on him, you cant have two different gods to show two different points, you need only one god to demonstrate two different points.

  6. “Because you have trouble wrapping your head around it, therefore God must be contradictory??” This is wrong, that is not my argument. In the world of logic, 2+2=4. In the world of science, our best guess to the answer of this sum is 2+2=4.
    This is logic, not science. if 2+2=5 is wrong, then it is WRONG, nothing can change that, where as in science, you can, because something can always come up which changes our mind.

  7. G’day, I fear this discussion is entering an endless loop, and for both of our sakes, it may be best to stop. I was going to make my previous comment my last, but let me have one more thorough attempt.

    (a) An argument is a connected series of statements, with each statement either justified by evidence, or following logically from previous statements. Do you agree?

    (b) You have not provided such a series of statements. In fact, as I have questioned your “argument”, it has become more incoherent. Take your latest statement:

    “God may have all-power, but he can’t use his all-power because he logically can’t if he is all-knowing, which is essentially the same as what I originally brought up. So if nothing is locked in until he decides what is going to happen, and his deciding on what happens makes that decision, then he is not all-knowing because he does not know what he is going to lock in until he decides, he does not know what will happen until he decides, meaning that he does not know everything, if he has not decided it yet. If he cannot ‘foresee’ until he makes his decision, then he is either all-knowing, by deciding; or all-powerful, by leaving it open, he still cannot have both.”

    That to me is a confusion, not an argument, and I don’t think you could reasonably expect anyone to reach any conclusion from it. You have ignored that God is outside time – his knowing and his doing are all in present tense, one doesn’t come before the other. But all your tortured logic depends on him being in time, and doing one thing before another. That is why I have tried to use terms like “logically dependent”, which don’t imply time.

    (c) So let me have a go at a connected series of statements:

    1. Knowledge entails the thing known actually being true.
    2. Therefore, if an event doesn’t occur, we cannot know it (from 1).
    3. Therefore our knowledge of an event is logically dependent on it occurring (from 2).
    4. An event can occur without us knowing it.
    5. Therefore the occurrence of an event is not dependent on our knowledge (from 4).
    6. Therefore knowledge is logically or causally dependent on occurrence, but occurrence is not logically or causally dependent on knowledge (combining 3 & 5).
    7. Therefore God’s ability to do something is not determined by his knowledge, but his knowledge is determined by his decision to do it (from 6).
    8. God exists outside of time.
    9. Therefore all things are present to him, and nothing occurs before or after anything else (from 8).
    10. Therefore neither knowing nor deciding occur before the other (from 9).
    11. Therefore there is no time when he doesn’t know everything, and no time when he is prevented from doing anything he chooses (from 7 & 10).
    12. Therefore there is no contradiction, no limit to God’s powers, and your argument fails (from 11).

    Now, if you want to continue to support your argument, I invite you to do two things – (i) show me where there is an error in that argument, and (ii) present your argument in a similar series of clear steps. I don’t think you can do the latter without stumbling over the logic of the above argument. But I am interested to discuss if you are.

  8. I decided to answer this separately.

    “I would like to ask if you could put your coin down on one definition of an all-powerful, all-knowing god, just describe him to me. Because at the moment you have two separate theories, and they are both inconsistent with each other. On the one hand you have a god that is all-powerful, but does not (and cannot) use his powers, and all-knowing, and on the other hand you have an all-powerful god who decides upon every action in the universe, giving him full power, but no foreseeing knowledge.
    Give me… about a paragraph, or two, please. Pick your god, and bet on him, you cant have two different gods to show two different points, you need only one god to demonstrate two different points.”

    I think you have misunderstood me. it is not true that I “have two separate theories”.

    I don’t believe in “a god that is all-powerful, but does not (and cannot) use his powers” – I believe God uses his powers, but doesn’t always impose his will on us. Thus I don’t believe he “decides upon every action in the universe” – he is powerful enough to do so, but he chooses to give us (and maybe other creatures) freedom to act. He knows in his eternal present what we in our time-bound existence will choose, because our choice is real and his knowledge is complete.

    It is you who have two separate theories, because you are confused about God, as I have explained above. So now I’ve pointed out where you misunderstand me, let me answer your final question.

    I believe God is all-powerful (i.e. he has the power to do anything that isn’t logically silly) and all-knowing. he lives outside of time, so any statements that include temporal limitations are wrong. I believe he chose to create a universe in which autonomous, rational, ethical, conscious beings could live (that’s us, and maybe others). He did this out of love – it is a loving ting to create a new life and give it freedom, as any parent knows. So he withholds the exercising of his power, so we can exercise our more limited power. I see nothing inconsistent in that.

    But let me take it one stage further. He did all this so we could choose the sort of person we would be, and how we would respond to him. he even allows people to disbelieve in him and oppose him, because that’s what autonomy entails. But he wants all people to know him, and that includes you.

    So this isn’t just a discussion. It is an opportunity for you to re-think. You could be passing up the opportunity of a lifetime, based on really shaky logic. That is why I write – not to provoke an argument but to help you think better about God. Thanks for the opportunity.

  9. Pingback: A recent debate with a creationist | Young Australian Skeptics

  10. I’ve read through the comments, and both of you seem to be making valid points, thiugh I am a skeptic. On the actual topic though, nothing can be all-powerful and all-knowing without creating some sort of loop-type thing in which God can change anything at any time. That probably doesn’t make any sense…
    If God percieves all of time as the present, than what is present, believers?
    And the biggest of all: Who created God?
    Nice Douglas Adams reference, by the way.
    I’ve failed to prove a decent point here.

    • God has so many ‘pro-points’ he can use, and he can cash them in on either power or knowledge, or half of both, or some other combination, but he can’t have all of both, because if he knows everything, he can’t change it, and if he can change it, then he doesn’t know if he can change it.

  11. I don’t understand the point of this post at all. Your talking about God (or in your case the lower-case god) as if he has human limitations. God may know exactly what is going to happen to you every second of your life but the story is constantly evolving because of your decisions. God doesn’t lay out your future for you in stone he simply adjusts it to circumstance. That’s one of the first lessons of the Bible, you are free to live as you wish. Another thing, is just because God is all powerful doesn’t mean he can do anything. For instance, if God is all powerful can he deny himself? Wouldn’t that be contradicting his omnipotence? God is all powerful in the fact that he made the world, us, and the universe he has a hand in everything that goes on but basically we make the decisions and He works life around it. Like if your going to play COD for fourteen hours and not go to church, the outcome would be your spiritually life would be greatly under nourished, and God would realize that through your choices you prefer COD to Him, which would lead you down a path different path than if you decided to get up and go to church. It’s not about chance it’s about the decisions you make, you determine your life and you choose whether to accept the leadership of God or believe he is some impossible probability.

    • Its not so much giving god the limitations of humans, its just applying the rules of logic and reason to god. If he’s real, he will have to abide by them.

      My argument still stands. If I am the one who decides to play Call of Duty all day rather than go to church, if its me making the choice, then god is not all powerful, because he cannot change my decision.

      You only validated my point further, as you highlighted the fact that if I am making a decision, only I have to power to change that decision, not god. Ergo, god is not all-powerful. QED.

      • Yes but what are the laws of a logic and reason to God? He over rules them. And it is not as you making a decision as God giving you the freedom to make that decision, he simply lays out your future based on your decision. “Ergo”, God is all powerful.

        • First of all, something must abide by the laws of logic if it is real. Just because it is god does not mean it can choose not to follow them, god must follow the rules too, if he exists. “he’s god, he doesn’t have to follow rules” is just a lame-ass excuse and a massive cop-out.

          As a side note, I find it interesting that everybody tries to prove all-power and all-knowledge in a different way, make of that what you will.

          In your situation, god guides our life based on our decisions, so he is all-powerful. The problem you now have is “does god know which decision you are going to make?” ergo, not an all-knowledgeable god. Don’t say “yes, and then he guides your life based upon that.” because if he knows what your decision will be, then he is powerless to change it. Ergo, god is not all-powerful.

          You can have it either way, a god who knows nothing but can change anything at will, or a god who knows everything but is powerless to change it. Or you could have some balance between the two, but never all-power and all-knowing at the same time.

  12. One fatal flaw in your overall argument is that you are under the belief that God exists for your purposes. As humans, you did not have an adequate understanding as to what is “good” or ‘evil.” The very fact that you can consider God to be “mean” means by your own admission, you are subscribed to the fact that an ultimate standard for morality exists in the universe, otherwise, we would be left to define what is “good, bad, mean, etc” based solely on our own beliefs. You cannot explain morality without the notion of there being Someone who ultimately defines what is “good or bad.” Is a good God who allows pain not a good God when He can see how that pain will benefit you in a later time? Because God is good, He allows us to have the freedom not to controlled by him; otherwise, He would not be a God of love. All things exist for God and for His purposes. We cannot possible fathom how the entire universe is intertwined and is orchestrated to fulfill those purposes. Is God evil because people die…or do people die because of the choices they make in how they live their lives? If you’re going to argue about the God of the Bible, then you have to understand what the Bible says—man brought pain, suffering, and death to our world (Genesis 3). Would God be “good” if he was not just? Justice is essential if goodness is to prevail. Furthermore, why is it God’s fault for the evil that prevails in the world? Simply because He could control it if He willed? If God did not allow anything bad to happen, how then would you ever come to understand things like “love, peace, hope, pleasure, etc?” God allows things to happen as He is the only One who can foresee the outcome as to what it will produce in our lives. We can either reject what He offers or accept the truth that “There is a God and I am not Him.”

    • Morality is quite simply explained without notion to any form of deity. Budhism does it quite well and I never see them fighting over their religion (unlike Christianity and Islam). There is an easy way to produce morality without god, and its also very eloquent. “reduce harm”. Its really that simple. “should I kill this man or not?” is easily solved. “no” because killing causes harm not only to the victim but the rest of his family and friends, much more harm than not killing the man.

      But if the man is slowly dieing a painful, immobile death, and he requests euthenasia, it should be given to him, as the pain he suffers and what that painful death does to affect his family is far greater than the pain of quick euthenasia.

      • Still not answering the issue of morality. We cannot know what evil is if an absolute standard of good does not exist; otherwise, what I think is good can be determined by whatever I deem is good. Without God, who are you to say what I do is wrong? Why is killing wrong? Are you a vegetarian or do you kill animals for meat? Who said that your life is more valuable than the plants and animals we kill in order to nourish our bodies? It seems that you are trying to establish a hierarchy of life, and yet, who said that man was more supreme than lesser living things? A surgeon can cause harm to our bodies when surgery is performed and yet good results from it. The subject of harm to another does not answer the question of morality. If in your school an armed man were to begin shooting students (causing harm) and the only way to stop him was to shoot him (causing him harm)…is law enforcement morally wrong for gunning him down to save innocent lives?

        • There is no need for a concrete morality, nor is there any evidence for it. We have to figure out our own morality, religion was a good start, but a glance at Afghanistan today shows it didn’t work out that well. It seems that the simplest philosophy is to aim to reduce harm.

          Seeing humans are the only conscious beings, and the only species which has developed a moral system, we can assume that we are a superior species, as well as the fact we can control all of the animals. And its not like the animals don’t get anything out of it. Domesticated animals have a pretty easy ride to survival, and survive much better as a species while domesticated.

          Of course a surgeon can cause harm to a patient if the net benefit to the patient is positive. Its about net benefit, not immediate benefit, and it seems short-sighted to assume that is what I was thinking. Its about total harm, not immediate harm from your actions.

          I like to think of this situation. Most people would agree that raping a child is absolutely morally wrong, and anybody who confesses this to me I ask the same question. “Say you were being held at gun-point by 5 armed men, they tell you that if you rape a girl, you and the girl will be let free, but if you don’t rape the girl, we will take you hostage and use the both of you as sex-slaves for a year before slowly killing you due to a horribly painful disease. You would rape the child and get out of there, (taking the child with you, of course) wouldn’t you?” Its a question of “which possible action will result in the least total harm (not immediate harm) to life.

          Back to your situation with a gun-man at school. If I had a gun and the possibility to shoot the man and kill him, I would probably go with shooting his hand and the gun, thus destroying his gun, and shooting his foot, and immobilizing him. Then immediate action would be taken to get him to a hospital. This seems to me to be the best option, as it stops the death of innocent children at the school, and it does not result in the death of the gunman. But if I had to kill him, I would, as it is clearly the option which results in the least harm.

          Morality should be such an easy question, “what reduces harm?”, and going with that philosophy. It would result in a world with less suffering (obviously) and less horribleness.

          • Evidence for morality? The very sense of right. wrong, and the fact that right and wrong can be “defined” by us is proof for a concrete morality. Concrete morality is something that gives us the very idea of good and evil…without it, you cannot even make the claim that God is not good…because it solely based upon what YOU think is evil or good rather than based upon objectives. Without that concrete standard of absolutes you have no basis to judge, expect for what you feel or think, which might be different than what someone else may feel or think. You still have no given an objective answer for the problem of evil in our world…expect that its God’s fault? What if the gunman in the school thought that you were creating harm to him? He would then be justified in killing you because you were causing a greater harm to him in his mind—how then can you convince him he is morally wrong without standard.

  13. Interesting…Your fatal flaw is that you believe that God should exist for our purposes rather than us for His. Your reasoning admits that God is good because you are judging God based upon a standard of morality, Without there being an ultimate goodness in the universe and Someone who defines what is “good and bad”—you cannot make a logical argument about the character of God and determine that He is “mean…”

    • That may be true, but that logic already shows the absolute vindication of your beliefs. Maybe, in some twisted, disgusting god-given morality its justified to have millions of starving children in africa because god is to busy “using his karma” (that’s a joke) blessing the western world every time we sneeze, blessing us every time we see some pretty sunset or whatever. Don’t bless us, give some food to the Africans.

      I don’t want to live that way, even if god intended it, I’d rather go to hell if god is a bully like that and apparently its justified.

      I go to a private school, which is usually pretty secular except for worship and RE once a week. Just recently the did something attrocious. We raised $10 000 at a free dress day, what did we do with it? Donate to cancer research? No, we gave it to a ministry for outreach in western Queensland. That doesn’t sound fair to me, seeing everybody in Queenland already knows about Christianity.

      Make of that what you will, but it seems unjust and unfair. If god is going to do things like favour the western world grossly, then I don’t want to spend eternity with him.

      Would you kill another man if god told you to? What does that say about your absolute vindication in your beliefs?

      • Again, why is it morally wrong for us not to feed children in Africa? Beyond that, if there is no sense of judgement in the next life, then what benefit is it to help others when there is nothing in it for me? How can goodness exist when there is no absolute standard to judge goodness by? You can’t answer these questions without establishing that there must be some absolute standard that says watching people starve and doing nothing about it is wrong. You seem to have the wrong perspective about things. If you truly knew God, you would also understand that God remains God within his character. He cannot do things that would cause Him to cease in being God (i.e., make a rock bigger than Himself). This does not contradict the fact that He is all-powerful. Again, you are arguing from a perspective of what YOU think GOD should be, rather than what His Word declares Him to be. In one sense, you are looking for a God who serves you—thus, falling into the trap of all humanity from the fall of man: the desire to be god. God does not owe you an explanation for what He does. Because God doesn’t ft into your mold, you seek to make a god that suits your needs. You’re under the assumption that God exists to make us happy and if that doesn’t happen, He can’t possibly be God. To me, that is the epitome of selfishness when His creation refuses to worship the Creator because He is not being a genie in a bottle. There is also something called “judgement” that exists in our world. God does not cease to be a good God when he exercises justice, in fact, one cannot exercise justice without being good. When man decides not to follow God’s decrees, there are consequences. Your starving children in Africa is a great fact to this. Millions of Africans have decided to have sex outside of marriage and thus creating an Aids epidemic. Was it God’s fault that people had sex outside of the parameters He placed for them? No, it was their choice and the consequences were devastating. Now, we have millions of children roaming the streets of Africa without parents and having HIV. So, that’s God’s fault? In essence, you’re wanting a god who you can say, “let me do whatever I want and when there are consequences to my actions that affects others, I can blame you!” You have God all wrong. Jesus on the cross is the picture you need to consider. After all, it certainly wasn’t His fault or His sin that sent Him there—it was yours and that’s not fair.

        • I am not requesting that god makes us all happy when I say “that’s no kind of god” what I mean is that I’d rather be in hell, a place filled with people of logic and reason, than in what can only now be described as theological dictatorship. I will also point out that i don’t make any requests of gods, I only inquire about the truth.

          No. there can be no absolute moral standard without judgement, but we can make a good guess at one and act upon it, based on what we have learnt, that suffering is bad, so lets reduce that by “reducing suffering”. Other than an apparent need for absolute morality, there is no reason to believe that an absolute morality should exist. The question of “Which is better, concrete morals or relative morals?” Shouldn’t exist, the question should be “what is the best descriptor of reality?”, and there is no reason to believe that there is a deity who judges our actions.

          In a god-free world (just imagine that for a minute, it was a real enlightening thought experiment when I was transitioning from Christianity to Agnosticism) we can never REALLY know what the best moral system is, just like we can never REALLY know anything in science, its only our best approximation at the truth, but we can have a good guess, and, seeing nobody likes suffering (kind of the definition) it would make sense to try and reduce suffering.

          I will apologize, I used ‘harm’ in my last few comments where it would be more appropriate to use ‘suffering’, as I did in this comment. While it means the same thing in all the situations i have brought up yet, there is one difference, which I will describe.
          Imagine a person who is locked in, and is living in pain every day, who is going to die slowly and painfully over the next few months, and the request euthanasia. Now, to reduce ‘harm’ might lead one to believe (damn the English language and its semantics) that euthanasia is harm, ergo, not fulfilling the request for euthanasia. But using ‘suffering’ is much better, as it clearly means that euthanasia is the best option, as living for this person is suffering. I know its just semantics, but I just wanted to clarify this to save any possible confusion.

          • You have already contradicted yourself in claiming that God is not all powerful and then accusing Him of being a theological dictator. The fact that He has given us free will proves that He is not bent on being a dictator. Suffering is not the result of God’s failure to intervene into the affairs of man, but rather, suffering is the symptom as to why man needs God…because we are by nature sinful beings. The fact that people all have a different standard of morality does not negate the fact that there is an absolute standard for truth and morality; rather it is simply the sinful choice to choose one’s own way while ignoring the standard. We are given various laws in our land, yet, everyday, people will deduce that they can find an exception to break those rules based upon what they feel to be “right for them.” Take speed limits for example. The “law” declares the limit, yet people will break that absolute limit and justify their reason for doing so. This has everything to do with man’s desire not to obey. Suffering is a result of man’s failure to obey the laws set forth by God. Do you consider gravity to be unjust when an airplane crashes, kills innocent people, all because a mechanic failed to re-check hydraulic systems? We blame the mechanic because we recognize that gravity has an absolute standard and when the plane will not operate within the parameters of gravity, there are consequences.
            I believe one of your issues is that you seem think that because God is God, he
            should be responsible for everything in the universe and never let anything “bad” happen. Additionally, unless you are God, you cannot see the entire picture as to how those details were to play out. Is it awful that little children are starving to death—absolutely. But unless you can explain why “life has value” apart from God, those children are no different than the cattle we slaughter for food. The Bible says that God is familiar with suffering (Is,53, Phil. 2). Can you say that God hasn’t attempted to intervene in every situation of suffering but men have thwarted His plan? Suffering also has benefit for us. Like a good parent, God allows suffering in us for what lies ahead. A surgeon who performs surgery on you will indeed inflict suffering for the benefit of your healing. If he doesn’t perform the surgery, you would suffer more and perhaps miss out on a fuller life. You can’t blame all of the injustices and problems of this world upon God when man is in the equation.
            Because God isn’t a theological dictator, He gives us the ability to choose or not choose Him…even the choice not to believe. Belief also takes faith. Logic cannot be the answer for everything. Explain love. It’s not a feeling, its not a chemical response, yet how do you even know that love exists? On what basis can you prove that you actually have the capabilities to “love” without there being Someone who has defined what true love is?
            We can go around and around on these issues, but the reality is, without the notion of God, there is no purpose for life. We live then we die. There is no basis for morality because I might as well please myself if there is no God. There is no sense of concern for my fellow man. Evolution endorses this idea—survival of the fittest. I would highly recommend you exploring both sides of the subject. It seems like you are a bright individual who has many questions that you need answered. If we as humans could answer all the questions we would be God…but we are still trying to figure out how to get along. Meanwhile, there is a God who has been trying to get our attention. He came to us and offered us a relationship with Him through Jesus Christ (who by the way is the most attested for historical figure in history—which is a different subject). He has the answer for man’s sin problem. Read Matthew 5-7. If man obeyed that, would the problems of our world still exist in the magnitude that they do? All I can say to you is that I will pray for you. I’m not writing on your blog to one-up you, but to genuinely share that which I have come to discover is true: God loves you and demonstrated that love through Christ. I hope you find what you’re looking for.

            • That comment is probably the longest argument from final consequences I have heard for I long time. If you aren’t familiar with it, or fallacies, the argument from final consequences is when somebody makes an argument for a point based on what it results in, as opposed to a logically sound argument in which somebody argues based on the facts of the point. Your whole comment was one giant argument from final consequences. The question shouldn’t be “which system is better?” The question has to be “Which system is a better model of reality?” Unless you can come up with a reason for me to believe that absolute morality is the way our system works, which incorporates facts, rather than fallacies, you remain with the burden of proof on your shoulders, as you are asserting the positive.

              You asked what is love? You just dismissed the idea that love is some sort of chemical reaction, whereas the consensus among neuroscientists is that there are a few simple chemicals which result in not just love but all of our emotions. Serotonin, for example, is a hormone (brain chemical) which is released which results in a happier person.

              Evolution does not “teach us” (a scientific theory cannot teach us about morality, only inform us upon facts) that survival of the fittest is the best form of morality, evolution shows that being altruistic is actually a desirable trait. From a purely selfish viewpoint, evolution could suggest that survival of the fittest is a way to guide our morality, where it would be better to follow our instinct (unless it is the instinct of an insane person) as our instinct is what has evolved to best help our species survive. As has been found over the years, evolution is not that concerned about an individual, it is concerned about the whole species, which is why it would be the morally correct thing to kill you son if it means saving 20 people, even though from an individual standpoint you are losing the next generation for your genes.

              The last two arguments I just used are an example of a logically sound argument (unless you can find something in there) as they are based on evidence (serotonin and altrusim) to assert that there is no concrete basis for morality.

              In your case, you have thoroughly proved that god must be all-powerful, but, as I demonstrated in this post (all the way up there ^) god is now without knowledge. He doesn’t know which decision you are going to make. Again, my argument is not about which is the best or most ‘just’ way to do things (because we have no control over it), my argument simply asks “how DOES it work?” and provides evidence that there is no concrete morality. You argue that god allows us to make our own decisions. What you actually have here is a god who has no power to change your decision, and no power to know which decision to make.

              When I said that god was a dictator, I was only making my comments about how ‘heaven’ would be, not how I think or claim to have proved god acts.

              There is no need for concrete morality, and even if there is need for one, that isn’t the relevant question, the question is “IS there absolute morality?” and the arguments which flow from that question. You have provided no evidence to show that absolute morality is how the universe works, only arguments which show it would be BETTER that way. If the goal was to argue which position was better, this would be politics, and there is no democracy on the workings of the universe. Its like arguing that god must exist because he promises heaven, its a stupid, ignorant argument.

              We cannot blame gravity for being gravity, but this is because gravity is an inch long sum, under the influence of the laws of physics and maths, which are constant, not a conscious deity. I will not bother to argue that god should make the universe a certain way, because I am only concerned about what is true, not about what is ‘best’. IF there is no concrete morality, however, then we have to fabricate our own, on which it is a question of which is ‘best’.

  14. Hey!
    I just want to say that I’m not going to critisize you first up. On the contrary, I agree with what you are saying, and am one of the few that wouldn’t just be flaming your wall.
    I think the major problem with the argument put out by the more religious types here is more of a ‘You don’t know God (Why do they capitalise it every time?), so shut up’, before spending the rest of the post talking about how god loves you, or just contraditing themselves at some poit (Seriously, read it back again.). Of course, it is our free will that we get in trouble for… So how is he all powerful? If he was all knowing, noticing tht in future there would be so many starving suffering children in the future, why would he let suc a futur exist?
    I’m not that great at this.
    I end this wih my favourite quote also by Douglas Adams: Imagine a puddle waking up one morning and thinking, “This is an interesting world I find myself in — an interesting hole I find myself in — fits me rather neatly, doesn’t it? In fact it fits me staggeringly well, must have been made to have me in it!” This is such a powerful idea that as the sun rises in the sky and the air heats up and as, gradually, the puddle gets smaller and smaller, it’s still frantically hanging on to the notion that everything’s going to be alright, because this world was meant to have him in it, was built to have him in it; so the moment he disappears catches him rather by surprise.
    I’m letting him do my argument for me. prove him wrong.

    • Theists try to establish a high ground in debates with atheists by claiming that they have a personal relationship with the creator or the universe, and use it as an unstated major premace throughout the entire argument. Every theist who has tried to argue against my point in this post has ended up playing whack-a-mole, they argue god to be all powerful, then I explain that it means god knows nothing, so they show that god is all knowing, which again makes god powerless.

      They completely are ignorant to the argument of the post, namely that knowing an outcome makes you powerless to change it. To disprove my point, you must hack the whack-a-mole system so that you can have forsight and power, not wave your hands about, pray for me and make some lame excuse about me trying to define god with human qualities or something.

    • I discontinued discussion with UnkleE after that comment, as he was simply jumping back and forth between all-powerful and all-knowing with each comment, in what seemed like he was forgetting about my arguments from only two comments ago.

      He managed to rack up 5 times more individual comments than any other comment thread and the conversation was going no where, so I left it, the arguments he used are nothing more than a reworded argument from comments passed.

      • Can you point out which line of the argument he presented is false, and why? It should only take a few seconds if it is obvious to you. I am very interested to see, as I personally cannot find an error when it is broken down so clearly, despite what you have argued previously.

      • Good job holding your ground @The Skeptical Teenager! Reading the arguments presented by those who are involved in religion made me so sick and I wanted to comment myself. Bottom line, you did a great job and I enjoyed reading!

  15. Have you checked out Open Theism? This Christian view of theism states that God is not All-knowing in the sense that is traditionally claimed, thus eliminating some of the tension between an omnipotence and omniscience. Also, I am a Christian, and I do not believe that God is All-Powerful nor All-Knowing in the sense that classical Christian theology presents. I believe is he an awesome and powerful God that is at war with evil and doing everything he can to defeat it. To me, He is somewhat like Gandalf in LOTR (just much more powerful of course), but he still has to struggle and plan and innovate to see his promises through, and he truly loves everyone and works to prevent as much evil as possible. Take a look at Gregory Boyd’s book “God at War” and some of the other books on Open Theism. Best wishes! — ken

  16. Excellent article! I would liek to put it this way:

    1)Nothing happens without god’s knowledge
    2)Evil things happen
    3)God can’t change that
    4)God doesn’t want to change that

    Voila, there you have it. God is either powerless or evil.

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