That the New York Times is anti-Christian is obvious enough. Most of its founders, leaders, and top employees are not Christian, and thus the paper naturally has an in-built bias, which at times manifests itself as pique.
Others papers, such as, say, the Asahi Shimbun also betray a natural anti-Christian bias, though perhaps non-Christian bias is a better term. The difference between the AS and the NYT is that former is written by and for a predominately non-Christian nation, whereas the latter is penned largely by non-Christians (ex-Christians and other never-Christians) in a majority Christian land.
This leads to occasions like the opinion column “A God Problem: Perfect. All-powerful. All-knowing. The idea of the deity most Westerners accept is actually not coherent” by some academic philosopher (AP). We know this poor effort is designed to stick in the eye of Christians, because the AP comes to the opposite conclusions of the various Christian saints and eminences he quotes. And because the NYT accompanies the purported takedown with a broken and decaying statue of Jesus.
What are the AP’s arguments for the incoherence of the Creator?
Can God create a stone that cannot be lifted? If God can create such a stone, then He is not all powerful, since He Himself cannot lift it. On the other hand, if He cannot create a stone that cannot be lifted, then He is not all powerful, since He cannot create the unliftable stone. Either way, God is not all powerful.
Try to define what such a stone would be. Are you imagining a God with powerful legs? Just two? If your god sweating and grunting? How big is the rock? Where would the rock be placed? What exactly is making it unliftable? Ten seconds is sufficient to prove the idea, not God, is incoherent.
If you performed the exercise you’ll find yourself in agreement with our great Saint Thomas, whom even the AP acknowledges had the best counter-argument “that God cannot do self-contradictory things”.
So omnipotence is no problem. Yet the AP does’t design to admit defeat on this point, and quickly moves to the well known Problem of Evil (he doesn’t call it that).
The AP, somehow, forgets the most important part of the Problem of Evil. If God doesn’t exist there is no evil. Oops. Oh, there’s lot of opinions and hurt feelings and subjective experiences of pain. But that’s just so much tough cookies. It isn’t evil that a flood washed your loved ones away, it’s just—-nothing. It’s not even bad luck. Your entire being, life, wishes, longing, thoughts, are so much Cosmic Bullshit if there is no God.
Yet, of course, this too is absurd. So there is evil. Which, I note, the AP does not bother to define. It is the absence of the good. The ultimate good being God, the absence of God is thus the ultimate evil. Welcome to Hell.
The AP, though he quotes some nice words by Al Plantinga, correct words at that about the presence of free will and the creation of the absence of the good, forgets too that if God exists—please keep the qualifier in mind!—then our lives here on earth is only part of our existence. Why suffering? Hey, it’s all part of a bigger game than the threescore and ten we have here. I don’t know the ins and outs and whys, and I too wish it would not happen, but no pain, no gain.
That’s the answer! If God exists, you (and I) can complain about suffering, as Job was finally led to do, but this expresses our ignorance. That’s one hard lesson; indeed, the hardest. Yet if God does not exist, then all your plaints are so much hot air.
The last argument the AP marshals is the dumbest. I read it through twice to make sure I wasn’t deceiving myself: surely the AP couldn’t have been that dim?
Alas, yes. For we are now at omniscience. And…hold up. First, remember Lavrentiy Beria? Stalin’s secret police chief, murderer, and sadist? Nasty guy, right? You do remember his crimes? Well, that makes you no better than a murderer!
Hey, that’s not my argument. That’s the AP’s.
…if God knows all there is to know, then He knows at least as much as we know. But if He knows what we know, then this would appear to detract from His perfection. Why?
There are some things that we know that, if they were also known to God, would automatically make Him a sinner, which of course is in contradiction with the concept of God. As the late American philosopher Michael Martin has already pointed out, if God knows all that is knowable, then God must know things that we do, like lust and envy. But one cannot know lust and envy unless one has experienced them. But to have had feelings of lust and envy is to have sinned, in which case God cannot be morally perfect.
You can only know of something if you experienced it? A restive person who has never been slothful cannot know sloth? Since you know what murdering is like, via Beria, you too must be a murderer. Or something. Act and potential have no dividing lines here.
It follows that “God doesn’t know what it is like to be human”, says the AP. Yet if God exists, He created humans and thus knows very well what it is like to be human. What about Jesus? The AP runs away from trying to answer, saying only the Incarnation “presents us with its own formidable difficulties”.
It do, AP; it do.