Wednesday, February 08, 2006

How is God limited?

People are often disturbed by the notion that God is limited by anything. By saying God is all knowing or all powerful, they take it that God must know absolutely everything and he must be able to do absolutely anything. Otherwise, he isn't all knowing or all powerful.

This all powerful one comes up all the time, but I never hear the all knowing one come up that much. For the all powerful attribute, people conjure up scenarios of God creating a rock too heavy for him to lift and things like that. In response, we'll clarify that being all knowing means God can do all things logically possible. But then the other person might get bent out of shape about God being limited by logic.

But why don't people say the same sorts of things about God's knowledge? Instead of asking if God can create a rock too heavy for him to lift, why not ask something similar in regard to God's knowledge? For example, Does God know the earth is flat? If you say no, well then there's one thing God doesn't know. But then we would respond, "But being all knowing only means that God knows everything that's true." In a situation like that, a person might well be just as disturbed as before when God was limited by logic. Now, it seems that God is limited to only knowing things that are true.

Now I want to repeat a point I made on a previous blog entry. Let's assume God is not limited by logic. Now what? It seems to me all room for objection goes away. Can God create a rock too heavy for him to lift? Yes and no. Well which is it? Both.. Well if he can, then he isn't all powerful, because there's something he can't lift. But if he can't, then he isn't all powerful, because there's something he can't create. If God is not limited by logic, then God can be all powerful even if he is not all powerful.


At 2/08/2006 5:22 AM , Blogger Steve said...

True, but if logic doesn't pertain to God then the statement "God exists" is neither true nor false.

Thus, by asserting that God can escape logical absurdities by defying logic could in effect challenge ones belief in God by making it impossible to rationally think about God.

At 2/08/2006 5:59 AM , Blogger ephphatha said...

Unless, of course, you're a Unitarian Universalist, in which case you have no problem holding to contradictory beliefs. You can believe that "God exists," while at the same time believing that "God does not exist." Of course I'm painting UU's with a broad brush, but I have run into a lot of them who don't believe in logic at all. If they don't believe in logic, then they obviously can't believe that God is limited to it.

At 2/08/2006 7:16 AM , Blogger Steve said...

very interesting! unitarians are certaintly an interesting lot. On social issues they seem quite progressive, although they are often marginalized by mainstream christianity for their views on the trinity (or lackthereof).

yet, even if a person is comfortable holding contradictory beliefs that does not necessarily mean that they are rationally thinking about those beliefs. Simply because they do not aknowledge the contradiction between saying "I do not believe logic applies to God" and the statement "God exists" does not mean said contradiction doesn't exist!

At 2/08/2006 7:43 AM , Blogger ephphatha said...

Most Unitarian Universalists are neither unitarians nor universalists. So the Trinity is really a non-issue with them as far as I'm concerned. My differences with them are far more basic.

Simply because they do not aknowledge the contradiction between saying "I do not believe logic applies to God" and the statement "God exists" does not mean said contradiction doesn't exist!

Even if there is a contradiction in that, it shouldn't matter to a person who doesn't believe in the law of non-contradiction.

At 2/08/2006 1:41 PM , Blogger Jeff said...

If someone doesn't believe in logic, or non-contradiction then why do they bother to argue that the both-and approach is the right one?

They are arguing that either-or is wrong. Thus making an either-or assertion.

Sam, besides the marginal folks are there any serious philosophers that do NOT believe in logic?

At 2/08/2006 4:44 PM , Blogger ephphatha said...


Nobody who denies logic can be consistent about it, but then again I guess we shouldn't expect consistency from somebody who denies logic. Yes, there are philosophers to deny the universal validity of logic. My own philosophy teacher does. He thinks logic is a product of language--that it was invented. He doesn't think it has any bearing on reality.

At 2/09/2006 8:32 AM , Blogger Jeff said...

Really? That amazes me. So before humans existed it's possible that there both was and wasn't a solar system?

Have you butted heads with him on this subject?

Does he stand in opposition to other professors in his department?

At 2/09/2006 11:54 AM , Blogger ephphatha said...


I have butted heads with him on this subject every single semester I've had him. He's the only philosopher we have at the moment. You'd be surprised at how many students take his side. His class is the whole reason I wrote that series on knowledge and logic a while back.

At 2/09/2006 6:33 PM , Blogger Paul said...

So, he thinks the gun can both be loaded and dangerous and not there at all? Denying logic at that level is like denying your own existence, and there's no reason anyone should take that seriously. I find that the denial really boils down to the rejection of logic as it applies to ethics and religion. Somehow there's a line that gets crossed in matters of thinking where it no longer applies. I think what's really going on is that people like this don't really believe that there is anything objectively real about the world of metaphysics and so it doesn't make sense to say that logic applies to what isn't even real.

At 2/11/2006 6:32 PM , Blogger Scott said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 2/11/2006 6:32 PM , Blogger Scott said...


I look forward to reading your posts on logic.

As you've already pointed out, holding such a ridiculous position isn't tenable.

Good conversation.

At 2/11/2006 7:54 PM , Blogger ephphatha said...

Scott, in case you can't find it, here is the first post in that series.

I also did a parody for those who deny logic.


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