"How MUST an Omniscient God Behave?"

This rhetorical question was asked recently by a believer suggesting that as finite persons we cannot fault God for allowing the evil we see in this world. Here's my response:

You realize that whatever you say in answer to this question is telling us how an omniscient God must behave, right?

But I say that an omniscient God should be able to understand us as human beings such that he would be able to communicate with us better than he did in the Bible. There is no doubt in my mind that an omniscient God could've communicated in such a way that the Church as an institution would not have santioned killing people who didn't believe like they did in the Inquisition and witch hunts (which killed innocent people). And there is no justification for such a God not to have unequivacably condemed slavery either. If your response is that he has higher, mysterious purposes, that we simply cannot understand, then such a God should know that since we cannot understand him we would also reject him. And yet this is what I find you defending...that an omniscient God has acted contrary to his expressed desires that we should accept him.

24 comments:

goprairie said...

To me, any answer anyone can come up with for why an omniscient and loving God would not communicate with us better is simply LESS LIKELY than that there is just no god.

'God' does not communicate with us because 'God' is an invention of the human mind. Originally useful to explain the world around us that science could not explain yet.

Any cliams that individuals now have of 'God' communicating with them can be explained by meditational states, self-inmduced trancelike states, and schizophrenia-like brain chemistry.

Most people claim no communication from God whatsoever at all.

Any 'answered prayers' can be explained by statistical chance and coincidence, the placebp or effect, or self-fullfilling behavior.

Yet people continue to pray and chalk up the tiniest of manufactured or false evidence as proof it worked and therfore there is a listening God.

So we have to live in a world dominated by customs and laws and rules based on religions made up out of whole mind cloth. Religions made up long ago or those watered down versions people cling to because they have been forced by logic to give up parts of them.

Because there are emotional benefits to holding such soft fuzzy beleifs. Until people understand those benefits and how to meet those needs with understanding of science and statistics and interactions with other people and interactions with nature, we are stuck with it.

At least this site gives credibility, reassurance, and confidence to those of us trying to make our way through a world clutter up witih false religions and their beleivers.

Bill Gnade said...

Dear John W. Loftus (and ALL OTHER READERS),

Actually, since I am the person who asked this question, I think it only fair that I respond.

I did not posit, as you state in your opening paragraph:

'[The suggestion] that as finite persons we cannot fault God for allowing the evil we see in the world.'

I never mentioned evil, at least in the comment I posted this morning here. I am tempted to think that this new post is an effort to create a red-herring to draw folks away from what was occurring in Lee Randolph's post.

Of course, I have dealt with omniscience vis-รก-vis the problem of evil at my own website. In that four-part series, I dismantle the traditional argument from evil. Moreover, I state that Christianity does just the opposite of what you state here: "finite persons" are INVITED to "fault" God "for allowing the evil we see in this world (your words)."

So maybe it would be good if you were to rewrite your post instead of creating a straw-man. Especially since the comment I made was NOT ABOUT evil at all; it was about Lee Randolph's confusing position about THIS question -- his OWN question -- he believed CENTRAL to the theme of his essay:

"Do you think that it is a flawed principle to clearly state your position and instruction on matters of importance?"

My sense, John, is that you have not read my series on the problem of evil. If you had, I do not believe you could reasonably defend your own position here. But, I could be wrong.

Of course, you have have found me defending nothing here about God, at least not in this thread.

Anyhow, just thought clarity was in order.

Peace to you,

Bill Gnade

James F. McGrath said...

What I think is more interesting is that, if one holds the idea of a personal God who perfectly knows the future, then God must spend eternity doing what God foreknew God would do. I call this the 'bored view of God', since it seems pretty tedious, and in the end undermines the sense of God as personal anyway.

You're still focused on the anthropomorphic 'big daddy' in the sky. The real issue is not whether such a view (particularly when understood in a literalistic fashion) is persuasive and coherent, but whether the we can find better symbols for the experience of transcendence that led people to use these older images in the first place.

Bruce said...

But I say that an omniscient God should be able to understand us as human beings such that he would be able to communicate with us better than he did in the Bible.

I use a similar answer whenever I get the question "What would it take for you to believe in God?" Shouldn't God know what it would take for me to believe in him? If he truly "loves" me and cares about my eternal salvation, then why doesn't he do what he knows would make me a believer? Either he's not omniscient or he doesn't care or most likely, he doesn't exist. If he does exist, then it is easily within his power to make me a believer and if that never happens then I must assume he doesn't want me in heaven. Maybe he is reaching maximum occupancy up there?

John W. Loftus said...

Well Bill, you're correct it wasn't specifically about the problem of evil, although when someone talks about the mysterious ways of God ,the first thing I think of is how God deals with human suffering. So while you're correct that you weren't dealing explicitly with the POE, I think it's relevant. Besides, the point stands irrespective of the context.

My sense, John, is that you have not read my series on the problem of evil. If you had, I do not believe you could reasonably defend your own position here. But, I could be wrong.

Such arrogance I don't see from well-informed people. You really think that if I bother to read your thoughts on the problem of evil I would not be able to defend my position even though I've read the writings of some of the top Christian philosophers?

Hmmm. This only makes me NOT want to bother with what you've said, since if you were as informed on the issue as you claim, you would NOT assert this in the first place.

I have better things to do, but you can check out what I wrote here, and then here. Even though I suspect that my argument trumps yours I will not claim you wouldn't continue to reasonably defend your own position here.

Chris said...

"Such arrogance I don't see from well-informed people. You really think that if I bother to read your thoughts on the problem of evil I would not be able to defend my position even though I've read the writings of some of the top Christian philosophers?"

John Loftus,

"if I bother to read your thoughs..."???

How is this not arrogance from so-called well-informed people? Pot calling the kettle black here. The only way to make this non-contradictory is for your readers to conclude that you are not "well-informed people".

You are saying that the lowly and uninformed Bill Gnade cannot persuade me since I've read everyone who is anyone. Why bother with what you have to say Bill?

Atheists claim reason and logic as their sole and seperate possessions, but what I see here, elucidated by you and others, is tortured reason and and mutated logic informed by crass emotionalism.

You need to do better than this John.

John W. Loftus said...

Chris said...You are saying that the lowly and uninformed Bill Gnade cannot persuade me since I've read everyone who is anyone.

Is this what I said? Hardly. Why do you continue to mischaracterize what I say? I never said he is uninformed, nor did I say I've read "everyone who is anyone." With reading skills like that no wonder you're a believer. besides, if this is how you read comments then what confidence can you possibly have that you understand the Bible, since the same skills are required. You'll have to do better than that.

Chris said...

John,

I paraphrased what you said and expressed what I clearly saw as your sentiments. In and of themselves they seem pretty straight forward. Combined with the exchanges I've witnessed lately between you and Bill, I'd say the sentiments as I've expressed them are plainly obvious.

You said,

"Such arrogance I don't see from well-informed people."

My "reading skills" lead me to this conclusion; Bill Gnade exhibits arrogance in his comment; such arrogance is not found in well-informed people; therefore Bill Gnade is not well-informed."

The conclusion is obvious is it not? Bill is not well-informed, which I re-phrased to say uninformed. The distinction of not well-informed and uninformed is what you object to? This mischaracterizes your sentiments? I apologize to you if it does, but surely you see that your choice of wording (and within the context of other discussions/debates) leads people to that very same conclusion, don't you?

To the substance of this post, what could have been hearty fare, informed by reason and logic, is nothing more than an appeal to emotion. The question posited by Bill "How MUST an omniscient God behave" was simply to illustrate the problem of finite beings making value judgments about how an infinite being must necessarily act. How can we know, from our limited perspective, if the way evil is being dealt with isn't the best way to deal with it?

We're not talking about putting out fires here and there. We're talking about irradicating it entirely. Destroying the source of it. How do we know that evil is not being stamped out for good and this is the best way to do it?

I would maintain that while you know A way to do it, perhaps two or three ways, you don't know All ways or even THE way. If we put you in charge, are you absolutely convinced that your way is THE way to eliminate evil? Have you thought of everything? Can you possibly think of everything?

Back to Bill. His series on the POE is very well done and provides much food for thought. He is clearly a scholar and a philosopher and what he has to say is as good as any scholarly journal you have read. Perhaps he is dismissable by you because he is a defender of Theism in general and Christianity in particular. But I submit to you that his treatment of this material does not feature these biases.

I think you should "bother" to give a read. You can't be that busy. You had time to write this post.

John W. Loftus said...

Chris said...I paraphrased what you said and expressed what I clearly saw as your sentiments..

No you did not.

Chris said...To the substance of this post, what could have been hearty fare, informed by reason and logic, is nothing more than an appeal to emotion.

If we are to discuss the POE and I cannot bring in specific examples of just what we're talking about without you saying this is an appeal to emotion, then we have nothing to talk about. Why should I cave in to that? Anti-abortionists want to show pictures of aborted fetus' to provide examples of just what we're talking about, so why would you object to one but not the other?

Chris said...How do we know that evil is not being stamped out for good and this is the best way to do it?

Well, because we'd have to assume God exists, which I don't, and then we'd have to suspend our normal ethical judgments on what a good person would do for others in the face of people who suffer. This is all extremely unlikely, especially when we compare this God of yours with what Christian themselves are told to do for those who suffer. God does not do what he tells others to do. See James 1:27. Is this not a problem for you? It sure is to me. Your God is a hypocrite if he exists.

Chris...Back to Bill. His series on the POE is very well done and provides much food for thought. He is clearly a scholar and a philosopher and what he has to say is as good as any scholarly journal you have read.

I have seen enough from what he writes here to think otherwise. Besides, have you read the journals I have for you to make that judgment?

Chris said...I think you should "bother" to give a read. You can't be that busy. You had time to write this post.

It doesn't follow that since I had time to write this that I also have time to read his essay, especially when I have read some scholarly defenses of the POE from Christian philosophers, and I have to use my time wisely.

Cheers.

Chris said...

John,

Perhaps you could provide me some links to some of your earlier Christian Apologetics. You spent the larger portion of your adult life engaged in it, and ultimately concluded that you were deceived. It would provide me with a useful starting point on your thought processes.

As I see it, where you were once convinced of God, now you are convinced that there is no God. Where once you were deceived, you are now not deceived. But my question to you is, if you were deceived for the better part of your life, how can you now be convinced that you are not now being deceived given your previously demonstrated ability to be deceived?

I'm not saying you should believe. That is completely your decision. But in one instance you claim there is no God and then inexplicably you seem outraged at the injustices of God. You claim he didn't commnicate clearly in his word the Bible, that he lets evil into the world, all of this suggesting that you do believe in God, but are outraged at how he is handling things.

You confuse me.

John W. Loftus said...

Chris, what you ask is irrelevant to my present arguments, and it makes no difference to me if I confuse you about this, since it's your problem, not mine. People change their minds all of the time about nearly everything. Thus your question is nonsense when you asked:

But my question to you is, if you were deceived for the better part of your life, how can you now be convinced that you are not now being deceived given your previously demonstrated ability to be deceived?

Just ask that question to anyone who changes his mind about anything and you'll see what I mean. They'll laugh, as I did. No wonder you think Bill is a scholar and a philosopher. [Sorry].

goprairie said...

"you were once convinced of God, now you are convinced that there is no God. Where once you were deceived, you are now not deceived. But my question to you is, if you were deceived for the better part of your life, how can you now be convinced that you are not now being deceived given your previously demonstrated ability to be deceived?"
Hasn't this 'oh so clever' argument surfaced before? Didn't YOU ever beleive in Santa or the tooth fairy? And you got over it. And you are now 100% certain of that, even tho the little kid down the street still beleives. I once beleived Lassie was a real dog that rescued real people - that the show was kind of a documentary, if you will. I now get that Lassie was an actor dog and the people were actors and that there were even SEVERAL Lassie actor dogs and some of the were BOY dogs and the stories were not even real dog rescue stories but MADE up and I am now 100% certain of all that and TOTALLY OVER it . . . at least I think I am . . .

Chris said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
John W. Loftus said...

Chris, I don't suffer fools gladly.

Sorry.

Chris said...

I am indeed foolish. Forgive me. Was that an unfair request?

John W. Loftus said...

Chris, you asked the same questions I had already dealt with as if I hadn't done so. You need to listen to the answers even if you don't agree, but repeating my answers is a waste of my time, and off the topic of the original post itself. Please stick to the topic at hand. You are not that important that I need to deal specifically with your personal questions. I am not trying to deconvert you personally, so get over yourself. You can email me if you need personal attention though.

John W. Loftus said...

Chris, as far as Bill Gnade being "a scholar" and "a philosopher" goes Russ and I have reached the same conclusion about him. He wrote:

I'll take my leave from your blog with a fine lesson learned: there is no substance behind your grandiloquent sophistry. You wield language with some artfulness, but you seem not to possess the capacity to discern non sequitur from logical chain of reasoning.

Hoping that I was warranted in giving you the benefit of the doubt in your last comment, and wanting independent verification for how my thinking might be in error, I sent your post and the comment thread to each of my two brothers, each of whom is a professor of philosophy, one Ivy League and the other Big Ten, and each of whom has a PhD in Philosophy of Religion. I thought, maybe Bill's onto something, maybe my critical thinking skills have indeed fallen apart over the decades. I'm sorry to report neither Professor was impressed with your analytical skills, and both concurred with the thought I shared…with no leading I might add.

Bill, you seem to me to be intellectually indolent and I wonder if it might not be due in part to your regular readers not being sufficiently demanding. They let you get away with too much. Maybe they are snowed by your use of language; maybe you use language as an obscurantist's shield. You and your readers both seem to revere you as an imagined intellectual paragon to which parts of your last comment attest.

I hope that your readers will look at your silly enigmata -- perhaps it's a game, perhaps it's a trap, perhaps it's a lure, perhaps it's pretend, perhaps it's intentional dishonesty -- and use them as context for your original post and your comments. Also, I sincerely hope that some of the thoughts I've expressed here will spur your readers to hold you to a higher standard.

So, Bill, I leave you to dismantle my comment with grandiloquent sophistic non-sequiturs, to take your bows and to bask in the warmth of your imminent rave reviews.


-----------
It's too bad you can't see what we see coming from him. It's not just that we disagree over religion, because Russ was writing about mediocrity and Andy Rooney.

Bill Gnade said...

Dear John W. Loftus,

Alas, I am wrong! Someone has visited my essay, That Droll Man, rather recently. You should have weighed in yourself when you were over there. The more commenters the merrier, I say!

Of course, your citing Russ here only begs the question: Did Russ at all prove his point, namely that I do not know the difference between a "logical chain" of reasoning and plain sophistry? I don't think he did, though I did indeed give Russ credit: He did show me something.

But one of my interlocutors at DC balked recently when I argued that he was suggesting that if I, Bill Gnade, was wrong in one thing, then Bill Gnade must be wrong in everything. I think you come dangerously close to committing the same fallacious appeal to infallibility (or is that fallibility?). That you had to travel to one of my essays about Andy Rooney (!) in order to somehow draw this grandiose and somehow-convincing conclusion that I am not a scholar or philosopher, is perfectly curious. I should think there is ample material at DC to prove that I am ill-equipped to engage in the lofty conversations here!

As for the topic at hand, I note that you still have not really answered the question here about how MUST an omniscient God behave. And then there is the ancillary question of how you KNOW how this God should behave.

Your first attempt at answering the question was not really an answer. You wrote:

'Here's my response:

'You realize that whatever you say in answer to this question is telling us how an omniscient God must behave, right?


To which I shall gleefully reply, "I realize no such thing!"

Such temerity, I know. But the fact is that if I answer my OWN question with the obvious and true statement -- "I do not know how an omniscient God MUST behave, nor can I" -- then my answer destroys your own bold and sweeping statement. For I have just answered the question without telling anyone how God MUST behave.

So far, there is not much here that does not follow the logic chain, at least in what I've written.

I would sincerely like to know how an omniscient God MUST behave and how do you know this; I would also like to know how anyone can tell whether such a God is indeed acting inappropriately.

A proof would be nice, maybe, offered from anyone here showing how he or she knows how an omniscient God MUST behave.

Or are we ready to suggest that God is not omniscient?

Peace to you,

Bill Gnade

John W. Loftus said...

Bill the only response you'll get from me on these things is this one. That's all you deserve.

Lee Randolph said...

I say that if god has goals for us then it becomes incumbent on him to behave in a way that achieves these goals.

If we look at the world demographics for christianity, it is about 30%. Thats not very good for something that is supposed to irrefutably be the truth. On the other hand, I would bet a beer that almost all people believe that if they stick their hand in a flame that its going to hurt bad enough and cause damage enough so that they would expend some energy to try to convince other people not to do it.

So how should an omniscient god behave? He should behave in a way that meets his expressed goals. In not doing that he would contradict himself. In most cases, numbers as low as 30% would qualify the project for an overhaul.

zilch said...

All I can say is, if God exists, and is omnipotent and omniscient, and is utterly incomprehensible and unaccountable to us, then He is behaving like a spoiled child, and is not worthy of worship, except in the sense that a madman with a gun to my head is worthy of worship.

paul01 said...

Marlene Dietrich:

"If God exists, he must be insane."

Mind you, I am not so sure about Marlene Dietrich.

GordonBlood said...

Am I the only one noticing that Russ's basic argumentation on this site usually follows like that
1. Both of my brothers are smart and have Phd's
2. They dont believe in God
3. Therefore God doesnt exist

Im being polemical of course, but I dont understand why he keeps on bringing them into play to begin with. I could call up Richard Swinburne, John Adams or my own Leuven-educated professor and ask them if they believe in God and they would answer in the affirmative. So what?

zilch said...

gordonblood- I have read all of russ' comments here, and the ones at the Exposing Atheism thread, and I must disagree with your formulation of his arguments. A more accurate synopsis of what he said about his brothers would be:

1. Both of my brothers have PhD's in Philosophy of Religion
2. They don't believe in God
3. This shows that sometimes, the more one learns about religion, the more likely it is that one will stop believing.

Russ said nothing about his brothers being "smart". I don't think any atheists here will contend that being smart, by itself, leads to disbelief. On the contrary- we all know lots of smart believers. But surveys show that the higher the degree of someone's education, the more likely they are to be agnostic or atheistic.

This is of course not "proof" that God does not exist. Maybe it's just that institutions of higher learning are all in the hands of the Devil, who has a vested interest in sowing the seeds of unbelief.

No- as has been reiterated countless times here, "proof" that God does not exist is not possible- science does not give us "proofs" for nonexistence. But contemplating all the evidence- including internal contradictions in the Bible and incoherencies when combining various "omni's"- it seems to me rather unlikely that God exists.