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Is God omnipotent?

 
 
Reply Sun 29 Nov, 2009 05:39 pm
Without resorting to ineffable mystery; or the suspension of reason and logic. Philosophy is after all the application of reason to the problems of existence.
I wish an explanation from those who maintain that god must be omnipotent to be god: for the following facts:

The universe appears to be 14 billion years or more old.
The earth appears to be 4.5 billion of so years old.
Life has gradually developed on the planet over billions of years.
Man has been around for maybe one or two million years. If the entire history of the universe is regarded as a 24 hr day man has been around less than a minute and civilized for only a few seconds.
There have been multiple mass extinctions on the planet in which a majority of living things have been wiped out by natural disasters. Evolution is full of extinctions and dead ends even leaving the mass extinctions out.

Now I ask you if god is omnipotent, and this world was created as some kind of stage for the drama of creation, fall and redemption of man; or some kind of training ground for the soul of man; does the age of the universe, the age of the planet, the arc or trajectory of life and the final appearance of man look like the work of an omnipotent being who is subject to no constraints or setbacks whatsoever and knows the future in every detail.

The entire notion of divine omnipotence is at odds with the facts surrounding cosmic and biological evolution.

Mind you: I am not an atheist, I believe in god and in the divine; in transcendent values and ultimate purpose. It is just that I see little reason to maintain that god is omnipotent as opposed to god struggles to achieve value (order, harmony, and intensity of experience) against the forces of chaos and destruction. In other words I have a process view of divine nature and divine action in the world. My vision of god involves acting through nature and natural process to achieve value in the world. I can not understand how the traditional orthodox notion of a immutable, impassive, omnipotent, omniscient, god can be applied to the facts of the modern world.
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Didymos Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Sun 29 Nov, 2009 06:39 pm
@prothero,
Are you assuming that God is a being?

That seems to be the biggest problem when people talk about God and God's properties - we tend to speak of God as a being.
prothero
 
  1  
Reply Sun 29 Nov, 2009 07:06 pm
@Didymos Thomas,
Didymos Thomas;106954 wrote:
Are you assuming that God is a being?

That seems to be the biggest problem when people talk about God and God's properties - we tend to speak of God as a being.

No I am not. I am assuming god is the source of order, harmony, reason and values. I am also assuming we must at least in the philosophy of religion have some rational conception of the divine. I acknowledge all such conceptions will be partial and incomplete but ineffable mystery or transcendent beyond any human ability of thought, language or expression does not seem to be in keeping with philosophical speculation.

Also all powerful seems like a property of "being". In fact one could ask if god is all powerful and other actualities have "no power" are there any other "beings" than god. Some degree of independence and power seem necessary attributes of "being". In any event I see "omnipotence" as a theological mistake especially in the modern world.
0 Replies
 
Krumple
 
  1  
Reply Sun 29 Nov, 2009 07:22 pm
@prothero,
Actually I'm going to take a page from someone who said it best.

"god is anything you want god to be, it doesn't even need to make sense because you will convince yourself of it regardless."
prothero
 
  1  
Reply Sun 29 Nov, 2009 08:05 pm
@Krumple,
Krumple;106959 wrote:
Actually I'm going to take a page from someone who said it best.

"god is anything you want god to be, it doesn't even need to make sense because you will convince yourself of it regardless."
Well actually I respect agnostics and atheists and consider their position rational, but for the purposes of the thread one needs to at least consider the possibility that the "divine" exists and that it has attributes. If the divine exists does it need to be omnipotent? In fact is the notion of an omnipotent divine compatible with our knowledge of the history and nature of the universe as we understand it in the modern age? Could a non omnipotent entity still be considered god and an entity worthy of praise and worship?
Krumple
 
  1  
Reply Sun 29 Nov, 2009 08:52 pm
@prothero,
prothero;106966 wrote:
Well actually I respect agnostics and atheists and consider their position rational, but for the purposes of the thread one needs to at least consider the possibility that the "divine" exists and that it has attributes. If the divine exists does it need to be omnipotent? In fact is the notion of an omnipotent divine compatible with our knowledge of the history and nature of the universe as we understand it in the modern age? Could a non omnipotent entity still be considered god and an entity worthy of praise and worship?


Alright, fair enough, but here is a question for you.

Could you stand in front of a starving child and not do anything to help them? If you have compassion for that child wouldn't you have more compassion than a person who did nothing?

I would gladly worship even a person who could transcend my level of compassion, which is to say, it's not all that much. But to actually be the cause of that child's suffering because of creating a world in which a child could suffer, there is no attribute for compassion awarded if such is the case. Oh wait maybe that child is suppose to suffer, because it is up to you not a god to do something about it.
0 Replies
 
prothero
 
  1  
Reply Sun 29 Nov, 2009 09:14 pm
@prothero,
[QUOTE=Krumple;106973]Alright, fair enough, but here is a question for you. [/QUOTE]
Krumple;106973 wrote:

Could you stand in front of a starving child and not do anything to help them? If you have compassion for that child wouldn't you have more compassion than a person who did nothing?
I would gladly worship even a person who could transcend my level of compassion, which is to say, it's not all that much. But to actually be the cause of that child's suffering because of creating a world in which a child could suffer, there is no attribute for compassion awarded if such is the case. Oh wait maybe that child is suppose to suffer, because it is up to you not a god to do something about it.
Well you have been participating in the "why does god permit evil" thread.

Part of the point about god not being omnipotent, is that a god who is not omnipotent is not necessarily responsible for the "evil" in the world. In fact if god brought order to the formless void (which is what it says in genesis) instead of creating ex nihilo (from nothing) then one could adopt Plato's position

"Then God, if he be good, is not the author of all things, as the many assert, but he is the cause of a few things only, and not of most things that occur to men. For few are the goods of human life, and many are the evils and the good is to be attributed to God alone; of the evils the causes are to be sought elsewhere, and not in him." Plato Republic II 379

In this view without god the universe would still be chaos and formless void incapable of the actualization of anything good or of value. One can attribute order, harmony, complexity, life, mind and experience to the influence of divine will on the formless void. God works through nature and natural process but chaos and disorder still have their own "power" and resist divine will. Thus evil (destruction, chaos and disorder) are inherent in the nature of the world not part of the divine will or divine plan.

I do not necessarily want to repeat the "why does god permit evil" thread. I am more interested in why people think "omnipotence" is a required attribute of divine existence and how they square or rationalize divine omnipotence with our other knowledge about the world.

The assumption of divine omnipotence is what creates the problem of evil. It is the assumption or necessity of divine omnipotence that I am questioning.
0 Replies
 
salima
 
  1  
Reply Sun 29 Nov, 2009 11:47 pm
@prothero,
excellent point, prothero. i have thought for some time that god would not be omnipotent, or whatever it is we are discussing in case he isnt even there. you have articulated it far better than i was ever able to do.

i also have questioned the notion that he deserves or commands praise and worship. i think it would make sense to try and stamp out the habit human beings have of praising and worshipping all over the place, maybe the messages to stop doing that and put it all on 'god' was for that reason. in other words, put it on the transcendent part of nature rather than the manifestation you see before you, because there really is nothing worthy of praise or worship in this world that is physical. music is worthy of praise, etc...and in art, rather than the picture it is the thought and inspiration behind the picture that is possessed of value, not the picture which will only decay and fall to ruin like we will eventually.

so while we are on this subject, can you explain to me what would be the logic behind the 'god loves us' theory? i mean, i sense things rather than figure them out most of the time. i feel a sense of benevolence ... albeit, far far away. but it is there and comes out every now and then. so what is that? i dont see god as a being either, though it is possible i suppose-but how would something without being a being have any compassion or benevolence? or do i attempt to identify something i perceive but cant recognize as the closest thing in my experience that it resembles? even so, what would it be?
0 Replies
 
prothero
 
  1  
Reply Mon 30 Nov, 2009 01:05 am
@prothero,
Salima this is in response to your thoughtful queries, it is the best I can do. I hope it suits your intuitions and provides something of value to you. It is way off the OT but I wanted to respond to your questions.

[QUOTE=salima;107006] i also have questioned the notion that he deserves or commands praise and worship. [/QUOTE] I have a very Platonic notion of the divine. I think the divine is the source of possibilities of value in the world and divine influence (persuasion) is responsible for the actualization of value in the world. Thus I give god respect and credit for the intrinsic value and beauty of the world although the physical world never completely or perfectly represents the divine aim or the ideal form. I do think god deserves praise although god is not a "being" who in any way needs or desires our worship or praise. Religion is for man not for god.

[QUOTE=salima;107006] Because there really is nothing worthy of praise or worship in this world that is physical. music is worthy of praise, etc...and in art, rather than the picture it is the thought and inspiration behind the picture that is possessed of value, not the picture which will only decay and fall to ruin like we will eventually. . [/QUOTE] I view the divine aim the divine purpose as the creation of value (harmony, order, and intensity of experience, life, and mind) and art and music as among the highest possible forms of experience, value and creativity. Everything in the material world is subject to decay and loss but the experience in this world is perfectly realized and preserved in the divine life. The divine purpose, the divine life, the divine experience is one of creative advance of intensity of experience and to achieve this aim requires struggle and sacrifice against the forces of primordial chaos (the void). God is actively engaged with the world (not impassive, immutable). Gods experiences the world. The ultimate value is creativity. The ultimate metaphysic is "becoming" not "being". This material world is but an imperfect emanation or manifestation of the divine ideal or god's primordial nature.





I am straying far from my original theme in the OT. The point of abandoning omnipotence is to open up the possibility of seeing the divine nature and divine action in the world from a different perspective. In fact I think most of the medieval scholastic attributes of god are in error but I started with omnipotence.
salima
 
  1  
Reply Mon 30 Nov, 2009 07:16 am
@prothero,
prothero;107014 wrote:
Salima this is in response to your thoughtful queries, it is the best I can do. I hope it suits your intuitions and provides something of value to you. It is way off the OT but I wanted to respond to your questions.

I have a very Platonic notion of the divine. I think the divine is the source of possibilities of value in the world and divine influence (persuasion) is responsible for the actualization of value in the world. Thus I give god respect and credit for the intrinsic value and beauty of the world although the physical world never completely or perfectly represents the divine aim or the ideal form. I do think god deserves praise although god is not a "being" who in any way needs or desires our worship or praise. Religion is for man not for god.

I view the divine aim the divine purpose as the creation of value (harmony, order, and intensity of experience, life, and mind) and art and music as among the highest possible forms of experience, value and creativity. Everything in the material world is subject to decay and loss but the experience in this world is perfectly realized and preserved in the divine life. The divine purpose, the divine life, the divine experience is one of creative advance of intensity of experience and to achieve this aim requires struggle and sacrifice against the forces of primordial chaos (the void). God is actively engaged with the world (not impassive, immutable). Gods experiences the world. The ultimate value is creativity. The ultimate metaphysic is "becoming" not "being". This material world is but an imperfect emanation or manifestation of the divine ideal or god's primordial nature.

I think god is good and loving but not in the traditional or orthodox way. God is not "personal". God will not save you or answer your prayers. Your life is valuable insofar as it contributes to the creation of positive value and experience in this world. God is benefited insofar as you further the divine aim (creation of value) and suffers insofar as you (with your power and freedom) reject the divine possibilities offered to you. God has created a world in which much of value can be created and experienced but not without significant risk of loss, pain and suffering. There is no real reward without risk. There is no capacity for intensely positive experience without equal capacity for profound suffering. Man is of immense value in the world because he is capable of such intense experience and of such creative activity. Man contributes much to novelty and creativity and thus to value in the world but with this positive capacity comes the capacity for much evil and much suffering. Sin is alienation or separation from god, missing the mark, failure to listen to the divine lure, the divine persuasion, ignoring the divine possibility. God dwells on the tender elements of the world and takes into the divine experience all experience from all creatures both delight and pain. God is good and the relationship between god and the world is one of love (agape).

I am straying far from my original theme in the OT. The point of abandoning omnipotence is to open up the possibility of seeing the divine nature and divine action in the world from a different perspective. In fact I think most of the medieval scholastic attributes of god are in error but I started with omnipotence.


i sense all these things, but i feel so lame when i try to say it myself. and i dont think anyone who hasnt sensed them can possibly take any of it seriously. i guess if one has sensed agape, and knows it not to exist on this earth, then it must also be subjective proof of another realm. but only for the one who has had the experience of course.
xris
 
  1  
Reply Mon 30 Nov, 2009 07:44 am
@salima,
We all try to invent a god that has all the attributes we admire and destroy all the nasty bits we cant explain. If i could do that ide be the next great prophet, I wish I could but it is an impossible task. I have tried but the logical consequences keep reoccurring. If he has self awareness or the power of contemplation he immediately fails to be logical. All the same failings reoccur, he cant help himself.

As a confirmed agnostic i have had to accept, if he exists, he is beyond our comprehension. I try taking the logical steps of excluding a thoughtful god and make the observation that we are the creators of gods because of our ability to reason. Our reasons are sometimes more important than our reasoning, so accept our weaknesses, our desires. We are the universes only means of reasoning and contemplation. We are its pinnacle of success , we alone can marvel at its creation. Is it possible we by thought are the masters of this universe, are we just subject and also the subject of this creation. Nature secures us and we are its flowering of success and we may be the next to plant the seed of creation knowing it will succeed and evolve into thinking beings such as us. We are the planters and the flowers, we may just be eternal souls we always thought we might be. Don't look for god because you are god. This is just my thoughts so don't think of them as dogmatic views.
kennethamy
 
  1  
Reply Mon 30 Nov, 2009 07:52 am
@prothero,
prothero;106936 wrote:
Without resorting to ineffable mystery; or the suspension of reason and logic. Philosophy is after all the application of reason to the problems of existence.
I wish an explanation from those who maintain that god must be omnipotent to be god: for the following facts:

The universe appears to be 14 billion years or more old.
The earth appears to be 4.5 billion of so years old.
Life has gradually developed on the planet over billions of years.
Man has been around for maybe one or two million years. If the entire history of the universe is regarded as a 24 hr day man has been around less than a minute and civilized for only a few seconds.
There have been multiple mass extinctions on the planet in which a majority of living things have been wiped out by natural disasters. Evolution is full of extinctions and dead ends even leaving the mass extinctions out.

Now I ask you if god is omnipotent, and this world was created as some kind of stage for the drama of creation, fall and redemption of man; or some kind of training ground for the soul of man; does the age of the universe, the age of the planet, the arc or trajectory of life and the final appearance of man look like the work of an omnipotent being who is subject to no constraints or setbacks whatsoever and knows the future in every detail.

The entire notion of divine omnipotence is at odds with the facts surrounding cosmic and biological evolution.

Mind you: I am not an atheist, I believe in god and in the divine; in transcendent values and ultimate purpose. It is just that I see little reason to maintain that god is omnipotent as opposed to god struggles to achieve value (order, harmony, and intensity of experience) against the forces of chaos and destruction. In other words I have a process view of divine nature and divine action in the world. My vision of god involves acting through nature and natural process to achieve value in the world. I can not understand how the traditional orthodox notion of a immutable, impassive, omnipotent, omniscient, god can be applied to the facts of the modern world.


David Hume asked this kind of question about the existence of evil. He asked what a person from a different planet would think if someone informed him that the world, with all its evils, had been created by an all-good, all-powerful God. And that is so. The world certainly does not look like a world created by such a God. And your question is very similar. But, then, philosophy has always assumed the task of attempting to reconcile appearance with reality. Leibniz attempted to explain how the world can contain all the evils it contains, and still be created by an all-good, all powerful God, by making certain assumptions. And theologians and philosophers have attempted to explain your paradox too. Here is one explanation-sketch: God created the laws of evolution, and then, let them work.
prothero
 
  1  
Reply Mon 30 Nov, 2009 12:32 pm
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;107053 wrote:
. Here is one explanation-sketch: God created the laws of evolution, and then, let them work.
And to a great extent that would appear to be one rational theistic approach to the problem (so called theistic naturalism) . That belief is commonly labeled "deism" and is a belief attributed to several of the US founding fathers (Jefferson, Washington, Franklin and later Lincoln). The founding fathers commonly referred to divine providence, divine guidance and appealed to god for wisdom so although they did not expect miraculous intervention they did seem to feel there was still some sort of divine participation in human affairs. On reading their letters and writing I do not think such appeals and statements were mere rhetorical flourish.

The process theology, panentheistic system of belief is not far from deism as the divine works through nature and through natural law as well as through human inspiration. Perhaps god is a more active participant in the world in panentheism than in deism but there is still no contravention of the laws of nature. The notion of Nature is not confined to physicalism and determinism is rejected. I think it does matter religously and philosophically if the notion is one of divine self limitation (god is still omnipotent just chooses not to act) or one of divine inherent limitation (the divine is not omnipotent).
0 Replies
 
prothero
 
  1  
Reply Mon 30 Nov, 2009 06:33 pm
@xris,
[QUOTE=xris;107050] If he has self awareness or the power of contemplation he immediately fails to be logical. All the same failings reoccur, he can't help himself. . [/QUOTE] I am going to ask you to expound on why a self aware contemplative divine fails to be logical?

[QUOTE=xris;107050] As a confirmed agnostic i have had to accept, if he exists, he is beyond our comprehension . [/QUOTE] Bertrand Russell "Philosophy though unable to tell with certainty what is the true answer to the doubts which it raises, is able to suggest many possibilities which enlarge our thoughts and free them from the tyranny of custom". Although any god is certainly incomprehensible from the more limited human perspective; rational speculation (philosophy of religion) is not only valuable but necessary to meaningful religion.

[QUOTE=xris;107050] We are the universes only means of reasoning and contemplation. We are its pinnacle of success , we alone can marvel at its creation. . [/QUOTE] I beg to differ. The universe is rationally intelligible and mathematically representational these are features which we discover not features which we create. Any god must be rationally intelligible.

. [QUOTE=xris;107050] Don't look for god because you are god. This is just my thoughts so don't think of them as dogmatic views. [/QUOTE] We are the most rationally and highest level of experience in the universe that we know of. We are indeed (made in the image) but we are not god. Man is not the measure of all things.

I do not think anyone is being dogmatic just an exchange of views, a greater understanding of other perspectives and an enlargement of the possibilities.
TickTockMan
 
  1  
Reply Mon 30 Nov, 2009 07:06 pm
@prothero,
prothero;106936 wrote:
There have been multiple mass extinctions on the planet in which a majority of living things have been wiped out by natural disasters. Evolution is full of extinctions and dead ends even leaving the mass extinctions out.

Now I ask you if god is omnipotent, and this world was created as some kind of stage for the drama of creation, fall and redemption of man; or some kind of training ground for the soul of man;


This is, of course, assuming that humans are the final product, rather than just one more species queued up for extinction.

Is there some form of evidence outside of our own anecdotal musings and perhaps anthropocentric interpretations of our surroundings that we are anything other than just a passing blip on the great radar screen of the cosmos?

Billions of years of evolution and we're the end result? Yikes. The whole R&D department needs to be sacked, and management is not available for comment . . . .
prothero
 
  1  
Reply Mon 30 Nov, 2009 08:03 pm
@TickTockMan,
TickTockMan;107147 wrote:
This is, of course, assuming that humans are the final product, rather than just one more species queued up for extinction.

Is there some form of evidence outside of our own anecdotal musings and perhaps anthropocentric interpretations of our surroundings that we are anything other than just a passing blip on the great radar screen of the cosmos?

Billions of years of evolution and we're the end result? Yikes. The whole R&D department needs to be sacked, and management is not available for comment . . . .
Actually I do not make that assumption. I am more in the camp pointing out that assumption is not coherent or rational and does not correspond to a modern worldview. Man is part of creation not the purpose of creation. The universe is not some staged drama for creation, fall and redemption. The classical conception of god (I,I,O,O,O) creates cognitive dissonance. A new conception of the divine is needed. Giving up notions of divine omnipotence is a good place to start.
Inquisition
 
  1  
Reply Mon 30 Nov, 2009 08:35 pm
@salima,
Depends on what view of Omnipotence you hold.

For theists, there are two (i am aware of)

first view of omnipotence: god can bring about any state of affairs, including those contrary to logic.

second view of Omnipotence (this is the view most theologian scholars have, and what mosts theists should beleive, though they will say he can do anything because they are ignorant to even their own religion) it states: God can bring about any possible state of affairs, but cannot do what is logically impossible.

If you hold to the first view, your response to Bertrand Ruseel's querry : "can god make a rock so big he cannot move it" would be yes. You would would also beleive that god can lie and tell the turh at the same time, and god can be righteous and commit evil at the same time, which is problematic for the problem of evil.

THe problem of evil basically says why is there evil if god is good. If you hold to the first view, you have no rational way of explaining why god cannot just do away with evil.

If you hold to the second view, you can say that god allows some evil in order to create a greater good. And that he cannot extinguish all evil becuase that would involve a logical contradiction on many fronts.

I think all people postingon this thread should make clear what view they hold to, or if they are athiests like me, then neither.
0 Replies
 
salima
 
  1  
Reply Tue 1 Dec, 2009 12:33 am
@prothero,
so if god doesnt answer prayers, who was that who answered mine? not too many times, and not for silly little things, but in my darkest moments when i am completely broken and unable to help myself, when i literally scream out of frustration...the answer comes.

also, i believe it is possible that god, if he exists, though doesnt appear to me to be omnipotent, would have the possibility of breaking natural laws when he himself reached that point as we do sometimes (illustrated in my first paragraph).

in that sense we are gods yet not omnipotent. fallen gods perhaps...

the thing about reason is that it can be used to substantiate opposing conclusions, the same as statistics. so as an offshoot to the original question in the OP, i wonder if god would have the same problems using reason as human beings do!

but if god is not a being, how would he be using reason and logic?

acatually i liked xris remark:
Originally Posted by xris http://www.philosophyforum.com/images/PHBlue/buttons/viewpost.gif
"If he has self awareness or the power of contemplation he immediately fails to be logical. All the same failings reoccur, he can't help himself. ."

but i thought he was referring to those who are contemplating god, not god himself.
TickTockMan
 
  1  
Reply Tue 1 Dec, 2009 11:57 am
@prothero,
prothero;107156 wrote:
A new conception of the divine is needed.


Why is a conception of the divine necessary at all?
Inquisition
 
  1  
Reply Tue 1 Dec, 2009 12:01 pm
@salima,
Thank you for responding Salima, you made some great points.

salima;107206 wrote:
so if god doesnt answer prayers, who was that who answered mine?


I am not sure that if you prayed to a god, and had those prayers seemingly answered, that it follows that a god must exist, in the conventional sense. There is much work done on karma and positive and negative energies created by thought processes. By your reasoning you can not exclude these, except due to some need to beleive in a god, again, in the conventional sense. I do take not that you never said what kind of god, just god, so i made this assumption. Correct me if i am wrong.

salima;107206 wrote:

also, i believe it is possible that god, if he exists, though doesnt appear to me to be omnipotent, would have the possibility of breaking natural laws when he himself reached that point as we do sometimes (illustrated in my first paragraph).


Omnipotence can have different meanings. The problem with beleiving that God is supremely omnipotent, that is he can do anything, at any time, creates an inumerable ammount of problems for the beleiver. I cannot hope to list them all but these problems are philosophical in nature.

So we say God is limited. that may sound blasphemous to some, but i assure you almost all theologians of almost all religions hold to this view. If you are familiar with the necessary existence argument for god, you will see where the problems arise.

Necessary existence states that a being that is infinite, omnipotent, all powerfull, MUST exist. I won't go over the details of the argument here, but if God is supremely omnipotent then he could be or note be, be infinite or not be infinite, he could exist outside the fabric of time and have created the universe, or not. He could even die or be evil and good at the same time. There would also exist the possibility of something greater than god.

Problem is that infinite neccesary beings must be infite, powerfull, and exist and maxiimun power by nature, and cannot not be these things. That is contrary to logic and would render all argument in favor of god as useless.

[/QUOTE]
0 Replies
 
 

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