• The Problem of Non-God Objects

    Here is an argument which I have communicated before here and here. Justin Schieber from Reasonable Doubts has worked on this and it has now made it into the Iron Chariots wiki site (from whence this is taken):

    The Problem of non-God objects

    The Problem of Non-God objects is an example of what Theodore Drange would call a ‘God-vs.-World’ argument in that it attempts to show a logical incompatibility between the existence of a maximally great being such as philosophical theologians hold the Christian God to be and the nature of the actual world. The argument is aimed primarily at Anselmian conceptions of God or Perfect being Theology.

    Proponents of Perfect Being Theology typically assert that properties like having power, being loving, having knowledge etc. are great-making properties. God then, if he exists and is a maximally great being, must have all these properties to their maximally compossible degrees necessarily.

    Christian philosopher, J.P. Moreland writes,

    ”To say that God is perfect means that there is no possible world where he has his attributes to a greater degree… God is not the most loving being that happens to exist, he is the most loving being that could possibly exist so that God’s possessing the attribute of being loving is to a degree such that it is impossible for him to have it to a greater degree.”

    If the theist conceive of God as a maximally great being against which nothing could hope to compare, then God would never create any Non-God Objects.

    Earlier, similar arguments

    Benedict de Spinoza argued something similar in the appendix to Part 1 of his Ethics:

    “Further, this doctrine does away with the perfection of God : for, if God acts for an object, he necessarily desires something which he lacks. Certainly, theologians and metaphysicians draw a distinction between the object of want and the object of assimilation; still they confess that God made all things for the sake of himself, not for the sake of creation. They are unable to point to anything prior to creation, except God himself, as an object for which God should act, and are therefore driven to admit (as they clearly must), that God lacked those things for whose attainment he created means, and further that he desired them.”

    The Basic Argument

    P1: If the Christian God exists, then GodWorld is the unique best possible world.

    P2: If Godworld is the unique best possible world, then the Christian God would maintain GodWorld.

    P3: GodWorld is false because the Universe (or any non-God object) exists.

    Conclusion: Therefore, the Christian God, as so defined, does not exist.

Note: The term ‘GodWorld’ refers to that possible world where God never actually creates anything. That God’s initial act of creating the universe (or any non-God object) was an act not borne of necessity is an implicit assumption within this argument.

    Justifying P1

    If God exists, he is an ontologically perfect being – meaning he has those great-making properties to their maximal compossible degrees and no such properties to any lesser degree. A world comprised of only the maximally-great being for eternity would be a world comprised of all those great-making properties to their maximal compossible degrees and no such properties to any lesser degree. Unless there is some source of unique Goodness – Goodness that exists outside of and fully independent of God, GodWorld must be the unique best possible world. GodWorld eternally sustains the highest overall ontological purity and, therefore, overall ontological quality to which no other world can compare, therefore it is the unique best possible world.

    Justifying P2

    An omniscient being would be aware of the fact that himself existing alone for eternity as GodWorld is the unique best possible world that could ever exist, and because God is essentially morally perfect, he couldn’t have a motivating reason to intentionally alter the overall maximal purity and, therefore, the quality of the unique best possible world – because any alteration in overall purity by the introduction of a universe or any Non-God object, would, by necessity, be a degradation of overall purity and, therefore, overall quality. God wouldn’t introduce limited entities each with their own unimpressive set of degraded great-making properties like the creation myth of Genesis records. While Adam and Eve clearly do have great-making properties (knowledge, power), they have them to an unimpressive degree and so introducing such beings would result in a degradation of overall ontological purity and, therefore, a degradation of overall ontological quality. To suggest God is in the degrading business is to suggest he wasn’t maximally great in the first place.

    Justifying P3

    P3 is the easiest of the three to justify. It can be justified merely by a simple recognition that you, yourself, are not God.

    Category: God's CharacteristicsPhilosophical Argument Against God


    Article by: Jonathan MS Pearce

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    • Nice post. I was also thinking of a flaw in the “maximally great being” concept when I critiqued the ontological argument. For example, “God” is often referred to as “the Creator” by many theists because they believe he created us and everything that we know of. The problem with being a creator is that one must create something in order to become a creator. So if god becomes “the Creator” once he creates something, such as our universe, then before he created the universe he was not yet a creator. We can say that god at this time prior to creating the universe is a potential creator in the same way a man can be a potential father.

      But if god acquires the characteristic and the adjective of being a creator once he creates, then he couldn’t have started out as a creator, and that means god has gained a new property that he previously didn’t possess. But if god can acquire new properties over time in the same way I can acquire a doctorate degree at some point in my life and acquire the title of “Doctor”, it means god could not have started out as a maximally great being since a maximally great being cannot gain new properties. A maximally great being must be complete in all areas as part of its intrinsic nature; it cannot go onto gain something later on in its life.

      • Daydreamer1

        I’m sure the get out there would be to say that being a creator is a property, but not a maximally great one. Add a weeks work – create something sufficiently convolute, ignore any logical issues since that is hardly the point and there you go.
        I have heard the classic question of whether God can create a stone so heavy He cannot lift it addressed as being just a silly little question by some theists, but at its core lies the reality of these sort of infinite claims.

        • That’s pretty much what I’ve heard so far. It’s just hard for me to wrap my head around maximal greatness, especially when god can lose properties like timelessness after creating time according to the likes of WL Craig. It doesn’t seem possible that one can gain or lose properties, that are ontological in nature while staying maximally great. If these have nothing to do with greatness, they certainly have something to do with omnipotence. Losing the ability to be timeless and never being able to get it back is definitely a loss of power.

          Even if god is intrinsically able to create universes, his potential is not actualized until he does so. He cannot be transcendent until there exists something that he can transcend, like time and space. So being a “Creator” is definitely related to how one can measure god. In fact many of the typical attributes associated with god – transcendent of time and space, creator, father, do not exist until creation.

          • I have just reposted my short perfection article.

            • Daydreamer1

              It smells like another deepity to me. Mathematicians usually consider an equation flawed when infinities creep in for exactly the same reasons as this. An idea being flawed is not a problem for theologians though, we are flawed beings so we are flawed theologians blah blah. They have already decided they do not need to meet a high standard and to be honest if the people paying for them do not expect them to then they don’t.
              They only need something that sells.

      • The sufficiency of God is a tough belief for Christian’s to defend. It would certainly seem to be the case that if God entered in to new ontological relationships there would be a nagging implication that His previous states were less perfect (I would imagine a God of this stripe wouldn’t enter into new states that were less than perfect; otherwise Christian’s would be admitting the problem).

        I suppose the Christian could impose the immutability of God as a defense. However, I think this usually amounts to no more than denying that God enters into changing *ontological* relationships. I can’t imagine that this move doesn’t come at the cost of belittling whatever concept of God being personal that they might wish to uphold.

        Unfortunately, I am not so well read on Christian’s who defend a b-theory of time. I think most defenders of the b-theory claim that God exists outside of time in (none other than the ubiquitous) eternity. However, I would whether they might have better luck defending against God’s changing (ontological) relationship to states of the world by invoking God’s existence within b-time: wherein there is some sense that all of God’s attributes *are*. What appears to be actualized at any given moment is only relative to our frame of reference.

        • I’m not aware of any Christians defending the B-theory of time because once they do, every cosmological argument is dead on arrival and god becomes redundant.

          • The one I can think of off the top of my head is Paul Helm, “Eternal God: A Study of God Without Time,” who attempts to develop divine eternity in terms of D.H. Mellor’s new b-theory of time.

            Another, Alexander Pruss, professor of philosophy at Baylor University, defends a b-theoretical view of divine eternity. You can find his critiques and defenses on his blog (aptly titled “Alexander Pruss’s Blog”).

            • But is it that these professors think the world exists under A-theory but god exists under B-theory, or that both the world and god exist under B-theory?

            • Pruss is difficult to locate. I haven’t seen any posts of his on this topic wherein he makes a connection between his theory of time and the existence and relationship God would have to it.

              Paul Helm, from the critiques I’ve read from WLC and from glimpses of the book and other reviews, believes God exists timelessly but that time is static (b-theoretic). I think his viewpoint is still important for seeing how a Christian discusses the relationship between God and his interaction with b-phenomena.

    • kraut2

      “In general, Scripture teaches us that God created the world and all that
      is in it for His own glory and because He desired to share His life
      with others. The creation of all these things demonstrates His glory,
      His love, grace, mercy, wisdom, power, goodness, etc.”

      A maximally great being implies a perfect being.

      How can a perfect being feel any desire, i.e. as postulated the desire of the abrahamic god to create something?

      Why should any perfect being feel any need to share his life, which should be perfect for a perfect being?

      This need implies a a feeling of incompleteness, a desire to share to be completed. How can a maximally great being be incomplete?

      How can a maximally great being feel love, except self love? Love unless it is self love is directed towards an object. How can a maximally great being feel the need to love something else than itself? Need implies not being maximally great, need implies incompleteness.

      It follows that a god that creates cannot be maximally great and perfect, and does not exist as postulated.

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    • carmel Ka

      I think Christians and Jews if they must give up an attribute, it would be omnipotence. When Christopher Hitchens and Sam Harris debated Rabbi Wolpe and Bradley Artson Shavit
      in the program titled, “Is There an Afterlife?” Bradley Artson Shavit said something rather startling.

      Bradley Artson Shavit told Sam Harris, “It is an medieval mistake based on Aristotelian thought that God has to be a simple unmoved mover, and thereby eternal, omniscient, omnipotent and omnibenevolent. Those are terms that don’t exist in biblical or in Rabbinic Hebrew. So, I apologize for the way that philosophers kidnapped the traditions, but it’s not in the Torah. There is no Hebrew word for omnipotent meaning “all powerful” and the concept is a nonsense concept.”

      Sam Harris upon hearing this quite puzzled asked him, “So, are you saying that God can’t doesn’t have the power to change these things”.

      Bradley Artson Shavit responds, “Yes, of course that’s what I’m saying. I’m saying that what God has is a different kind of power than the power of the dictator that Christopher Hitchens and I both despise. And what I look to God to be is a persuasive power, more comparable to a teacher or a lover or a parent who teaches and inspires you to be the best by seeing your potential and by giving you the vision and the power to rise to it. But I don’t believe in a God that breaks the rules or can intervene or who do magic…”

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    • Kevin Aldrich

      Johathan, would you consider this your best statement of this argument or have you written about it elsewhere since 2013?

      • Good question. I haven’t given the formulation much thought since, though i use this argument in one of my regular talks. Will think on’t.

        • Kevin Aldrich

          If you are interested, I’m sure Brandon Vogt would be interested in posting an OP on this argument on Strange Notions.

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