The Anti-Christian New York Times Says God Not Coherent

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?

First omnipotence.

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.

18 Thoughts

  1. The NYT is often incoherent, and is normally nonconformal to reality.

    The NYT, like all Leftism, is explicitly anti-Christian. Non-Christian sources are less hostile.

  2. Well said, McChuck. That was my first thought. The NYT is incoherent.

    “But to have had feelings of lust and envy is to have sinned” No, ACTING on those feelings is sin. Having them and controlling them is doing what God commanded. This is the NYT’s way of saying that thought and action are the same thing—a stupid, untelligent, statement by people who should be cleaning streets, not writing a newspaper.

  3. “But to have had feelings of lust and envy is to have sinned.” Since the NYT lusts after power and is envious of the One who has power, it condemns itself …

  4. “But to have had feelings of lust and envy is to have sinned…” from a guy whom I am dead certain can’t coherently describe lust or sin. He may very well have a handle on envy, although if he can tell me the difference between jealousy and envy I’d be surprised.

  5. Too bad for the NYT, they evidently don’t have an understanding of basic theology. Omnipotence as Briggs points out doesn’t mean that God can contradict himself. Also omniscience does not mean that God has experienced everything thinkable like being a sinner or making a mistake in a simple math problem. The term doesn’t mean that God has attained knowledge by that manner of experience.
    Omniscience simply means knowing all the facts in the world. And just knowing all the objective facts doesn’t entail that God has to have experiences of a finite being. Yeah the leftist media and NYT is a joke.

  6. Picking on the NYT’s logical incoherence is like shooting ducks in a barrel. Well beneath the sophistication of this blogger & his audience. One would hope anyway.

    St T Aquinas recurs here a lot, much of his focus on addressing heretical beliefs. Why not follow his example?

    Instead of picking on heretics so far removed form oneself that doing so has zero effect – aka “preaching to the choir” (or, mental masturbation, as S Hagar put it (There’s Only One Way to Rock) …

    … why not show the failings of all those false Christian beliefs pervasive in so many protestant faiths (e.g., the “rapture” that is a modern concoction). It’s far easier to re-vector people who are misguided to the true doctrine than win over those ice cold. Unless the point really is intellectual masterbation (masterbation, Briggs has informed us more than once, is wrong).

    So “why not” that? A couple of reasons, most likely:

    1) This is real work to resolve real, and surmountable, problems and hard, to do. ‘Any fool can complain and most fools usually do,’ goes the saying … ‘cuz that’s easy.

    2a) Christians, modern ones, have a very curious tolerance for heresy—accepting it mindlessly if “christian” is claimed. Accepting such heretics as part of their theological club with a liberal accommodation they generally never tolerate in their politics. Just shows how little they truly examine their own particular faith brand. With extremely rare exception it’s all about superficialities.

    2b) Thus, taking on heresies and logical contradictions & inconsistencies in the theology, not one’s own (of course) but others, prompts the suppressed regognition that if such deep examination were to actually begin there’d be nothing left in one’s own faith. Christians can be very good about pointing out the logs in other’s eyes, with the vigor they do so roughly proportionate to their cowardice at genuine self examination.

    Today most faith doctrines are flawed, a sizable many severely so. That makes it very very easy to reject not only some cult fringe group, but many mainstream … and that inertia makes total rejection easy.

    “Christians” guarantee they’re social loss by presenting a fragmented, divided front to broad society. If they want to keep society behaving somewhere close to moral they cannot tolerate so much immorality in their broad ranks. Heresy is immoral.

    As A Lincoln put it, a divided house cannot stand (it self destructs). “Christianity”, especially in the U.S. is a “house divided” many times over. To fix social moral decay the starting place is getting that house in order. Not pointing out how the lost NYT and such ilk are astray … unless mental masturbation is your vice.

  7. @Ken, is your point that Briggs should devote his blog to bashing protestants full time instead of mocking the New York Times? Plus I’m pretty sure that was Jesus and Abe was quoting him. Although quoting about the unity of devils to encourage national unity seems contextually kind of awkward.

  8. So, Ken, do you really think that nagging Protestants more is going to get them to repent and accept the authority of the Catholic Church, or are you not really that out of touch with reality and you just like to see Catholics nagging Protestants?

  9. “that God cannot do self-contradictory things.”

    The problem with this answer is that it’s really the concept of omnipotence itself which is self-contradictory.

    “So omnipotence is no problem.”

    It’s still a problem. Apart from being itself logically contradictory, it also clashes with God being unable to do anything evil. This is usually answered by God being unable to do evil because of his nature, but omnipotence is then reduced to “being able to do anything which doesn’t contradict one’s own nature” – by that definition, we’re all omnipotent. Also we can do things God can’t do.

    “If God doesn’t exist there is no evil.”

    This doesn’t explain why there is evil if God does exist, so it isn’t any kind of answer to the problem of evil. In any case, without God there’d still be suffering and pain which you can’t just handwave away by saying that it’s subjective. Whether God exists or not, pain would still hurt.

    “Why suffering? Hey, it’s all part of a bigger game than the threescore and ten we have here.”

    If you really believed this, you wouldn’t be able to intervene to try and reduce suffering in case you were going against God’s genius plan. Also, how can this answer hope to explain non-human suffering?

    “You can only know of something if you experienced it?”

    You’re strawmanning his argument. It’s not just knowing that something exists (like your sloth example) but actually experiencing it. I’ve never heard of this argument before, so thanks! Having said that, there’s no need to disprove God being morally perfect, because the Old Testament is jam-packed with examples of him being morally imperfect.

  10. The problem with this answer is that it’s really the concept of omnipotence itself which is self-contradictory.

    Hence why you need philosophers and such to create a coherent, non-contradictory definition. Using a poor definition and then claiming “aha, see – God is not omnipotent!” just makes you look foolish.

    This doesn’t explain why there is evil if God does exist, so it isn’t any kind of answer to the problem of evil.

    Free will, bucko. God gave us free will, and free will without the ability to choose evil is not free will. See, oh I don’t know, the whole Adam & Eve thing.

    If you really believed this, you wouldn’t be able to intervene to try and reduce suffering in case you were going against God’s genius plan.

    No? We have free will, limited knowledge, and a prince of this world implacably opposed to God, just for starters. A God who, incidentally, is quite capable of taking our actions or lack of actions into account.

    Having said that, there’s no need to disprove God being morally perfect, because the Old Testament is jam-packed with examples of him being morally imperfect.

    Like… what exactly?

    You’re strawmanning his argument.

    No, you just fail at reading. Per the article, “one cannot know lust and envy unless one has experienced them.”

    Now, if you think that (alleged philosopher) Michael Martin is correct on this point… oh boy.

  11. “Hence why you need philosophers and such to create a coherent, non-contradictory definition. Using a poor definition and then claiming “aha, see – God is not omnipotent!” just makes you look foolish.”

    I was using Aquinas’s definition as quoted by Mr. Briggs, and I didn’t say “God is not omnipotent”, I said that omnipotence is logically contradictory. The fact that philosophers and theologians have had to redefine omnipotence rather proves my point.

    “Free will, bucko. God gave us free will, and free will without the ability to choose evil is not free will. See, oh I don’t know, the whole Adam & Eve thing.”

    I was responding to: “without God there’d be no evil”, so that’s irrelevant. You claim that free will without the ability to choose evil isn’t free will, but God can’t choose to do evil, so does that mean God doesn’t have free will? As for Adam and Eve, no such people ever existed, but hypothetically Eve didn’t have knowledge of evil before eating from the forbidden tree, so that doesn’t make sense either.

    “No? We have free will, limited knowledge, and a prince of this world implacably opposed to God, just for starters. A God who, incidentally, is quite capable of taking our actions or lack of actions into account.”

    It doesn’t make sense to me to claim we should interverne to stop suffering, but also that the same suffering is part of God’s plan. As for “prince of the world”, how can an omnibenevolent God allow the devil to exist?

    “No, you just fail at reading. Per the article, “one cannot know lust and envy unless one has experienced them.””

    I don’t see how it makes sense to 100 % perfectly know an emotion without knowing what that emotion feels like, so I do think this guy is making a valid point.

    [the Old Testament is jam-packed with examples of him being morally imperfect] “Like… what exactly?”

    Drowning almost every living thing in the entire world? Setting out rules for slavery instead of abolishing it? Commanding genocide?

  12. @swordfishtrombone, regarding God’s “immorality”, immoral by what standard?

    Ugly and unfortunate yes, but the point is God has an absolute claim to everything and a level of moral knowledge that human beings cannot have. He can call anyone home at any time and it isn’t immoral. Have you read the rules for slavery? It’s like a hitch in the army, which nobody considers immoral.

    Just because something is ugly or unpleasant doesn’t make it wrong. If you didn’t know what surgery was, you’d scream and call the cops that they’ve sliced some guy open and are rooting around inside his guts. Since you lack the knowledge you confuse saving the patients life with some horrible immorality.

  13. “I was using Aquinas’s definition as quoted by Mr. Briggs, and I didn’t say “God is not omnipotent”, I said that omnipotence is logically contradictory. The fact that philosophers and theologians have had to redefine omnipotence rather proves my point.”

    So, since naive set theory is logically contradictory, and mathematicians had to redefine it to make it non-contradictory, proves the point that set theory in general is logically contradictory?

  14. Oh Swordfish clearly isn’t using Aquinas’ definition of omnipotence or any widespread theistic view of omnipotence. If “omnipotence” is defined as “someone that can do anything that is thinkable or imaginable” then the definition of course leads to contradiction. By that definition, God could create a circle-square which is nonsense. As a matter of fact, it wouldn’t even be clear what the capabilities of God would be if omnipotence is absurdly defined as “an ability to do anything imaginable”. Well we can imagine a person making a mistake in math like a child wrongly thinking 5+5=11 and we can imagine a person that has the ability to understand the math and correctly sees that 5+5=10. So if God do anything imaginable then would he be capable of making a mistake in math? Or would he be capable of understanding the answer to every possible math problem – thus implying that he’s incapable of making a mistake in math? Such a view of omnipotence cannot work and it’s the reason why about all theistic philosophers don’t accept it.

    Now different theists may have different views on the exact scope of omnipotence, but they nearly all agree on one thing: an omnipotent being is an all-powerful being that has power over all entities and events. After all, the world is said to come from God so he has power over it. And that basic concept of omnipotence is not incoherent.

  15. @ Hoyos,

    “regarding God’s “immorality”, immoral by what standard?”

    Mine.

    “Ugly and unfortunate yes, but the point is God has an absolute claim to everything and a level of moral knowledge that human beings cannot have.”

    The logic of this escapes me. If anything God does is automatically moral, then his morality is meaningless, and I don’t see how just the fact of his having created us gives him the moral right to do what he wants with us. If anything, the reverse would be true.

    “Have you read the rules for slavery? It’s like a hitch in the army, which nobody considers immoral.”

    If you think anything God does is moral, why not just claim slavery is moral because God condones it? That would at least be consistent.

    “Just because something is ugly or unpleasant doesn’t make it wrong. If you didn’t know what surgery was, you’d scream and call the cops that they’ve sliced some guy open and are rooting around inside his guts. Since you lack the knowledge you confuse saving the patients life with some horrible immorality.”

    Again, the implication of this is that we shouldn’t try and intervene to prevent suffering in case it’s part of God’s plan.

  16. “Free will, bucko. God gave us free will, and free will without the ability to choose evil is not free will. See, ”
    You have nothing so posh as free will. You have judgement.
    Prosaic, plain old simple judgement.
    Who knew?

  17. The world without freedom to choose would not be more than a piece of clockwork machinery. Awareness would be strange and superfluous.

    We couldn’t ‘know’ anything in a world where there wasn’t a ‘need to know’.
    In order to know something, a decision is made, a judgment/conviction, is made. Without assigning value to those judgements there is no currency to work on. Nothing to calculate.
    Good and evil are values like all the others. Brute facts with or without God.

    It drives science and discovery. The mystery is necessary for the human mind to integrate with the material world. Hope of finding relief from suffering and pain is not assigned only to people who believe in God. (Up until the ‘end of life plan’ or ‘quality of life’ debate. )

    Those who proclaim that faith is just a set of rules are not thinking, faith requires more.

    Morality is about duty AND love. The latter informs the former.
    Some of the remarks made by the faithful side appear obscene. When it seems that God is a vivisectionist as described by CS Lewis, or as Swordfish outlined above, I think those are very honest, valid questions or convictions based on a truthful account of given situations. Not to be mocked at all.
    That is the time when hope becomes the last thing left. People in those situations all have the same options of prayer or no prayer. Luckily, God listens even when you think he doesn’t and thankfully takes no council from philosophers.

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