Nature Of God (OCR exam board)


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Nature Of God (OCR exam board)

  1. 1. Nature of God God’s Attributes
  2. 2. God’s Eternity God can be viewed as eternal in two ways:  Eternal refers to God existing outside of time – timeless  Eternal that refers to God having no beginning and no end but time passes for God.
  3. 3. Eternal - timeless  God exists outside of time (God is perfect: time passing implies imperfection)  God has no beginning and no end  Biblical passages hint at Gods eternity: “who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy.” Isaiah  Heavily influenced by Classical Philosophy: Plato/ Unchanging world of Eternal Forms  Nicolas Wolterstorff adds that idea of Eternal God not just based on Classical Philosophy  Eternal God has to be different from humans experience of life in physical world.  “The gnawing of time bites all.”
  4. 4. Boethius  Book 5 of ‘The Consolation of Philosophy’  God does not experience past, present or future  All time is present to God at same time.  Does not exist in time/ God’s existence is limitless  Eternity: “the whole, simultaneous and perfect possession of unending life.”  All time is present to God ‘simultaneously.’  E.g. Like watching a film and seeing the opening titles and credits in ‘one glance’
  5. 5. Aquinas supports Boethius  God existence is unending:- without beginning or end  time and change are inseparable – God cant change so cannot be in time.  Aquinas agrees with Boethius: “eternity exists as a simultaneous whole and time does not.”
  6. 6. Supporters Nicholas Wolterstorff: “freed from the bondage of temporality.” Anselm: God is eternal because nothing can contain God.
  7. 7. Critics Response  Anthony Kenny: notion of time being simultaneously present to God is incoherent.  Swinburne agrees: he could not “make much sense” of this.  How can God be personal and act in creation e.g. Red Sea?  Love involves a two way process and ability to respond  How can an eternal God respond to people’s prayers?  Paul Helm: “ God, considered as timeless, cannot have temporal relations with any of his creation.”  Language that suggests God acting personally in the Bible reflects people of the time encountering God.  Wiles: no selective response from God –ongoing creative activity.  Aquinas: prayers not for requests
  8. 8. Further Issue  A possible problem is that Boethius ends up defining a God that is intrinsically different from the God of Classical Theism  More of a Deist God because leaves questions about incarnation/ Christ, relevance of prayer (pointless) and no interaction.
  9. 9. Eternal as Everlasting  One solution to the problems raised by God’s eternal nature = God is everlasting.  God always exists and will always exist without end but time passes for God  Not a lessening of power  Supports a present and active God answering prayers/ granting miracles
  10. 10. Swinburne  Supports this view: idea of events occurring simultaneously to God cannot be made sense of.  Therefore an everlasting God fits more satisfactory with God as revealed in Bible “God knows the events of AD 1995 unless it means that he exists in 1995 and knows in 1995 what is happening… .hence I prefer that understanding of God being eternal as his being everlasting rather than as his being timeless.”
  11. 11. Wolterstorff • Only way to understand some of God’s actions in Bible is to see them as responses to humans’ free choices e.g. 10 plagues to human beings behaviour – time passing • Wolterstorff also argues that you cannot criticise an everlasting God for not knowing the events of the future because God’s omniscience only includes knowing what has happened. • the future as it does not yet exist = illogical
  12. 12. Philosophical Problems Eternal - timeless Supports God’s:  Omniscience – has all knowledge  Omnipotence – has all power to create and remain separate from time  Perfect: no limits, constraints  Immutable: not changed by time But Questions God's:  Omni benevolence – not present in time  Personal – not answering prayers /miracles Eternal - everlasting Supports God’s  Omni benevolence: active in human lives  Personal: answers prayers/ miracles But Questions God’s:  Omniscience: If God does not know future can God be all- knowing?  Immutable: if time/ humans change God can God still be perfect?  Perfect: Is God limited by time?
  13. 13. Philosophical Issue Deuteronomy 33:27 “ The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms.” This can be interpreted in three ways: 1. God is both timeless and everlasting 2. God is eternal = timeless 3. God is eternal = everlasting – inside of time The issue is based on interpretation of the scripture.
  14. 14. Omnipotence: concerns God’s ability to do anything even the logically impossible  Rene Descartes: God can do anything  God can change the fundamental laws of physical (unchanging /universal)  However rejected by many later philosophers. X J. L. Mackie argued: idea of logically impossible actions were ‘Only a form of words which fails to describe any state of affairs.” = Logical impossibilities do not exist
  15. 15. Omnipotence concerns God's ability to do what is logically possible for a perfect God to do. Aquinas:  “Whatever involves a contradiction is not held by omnipotence, for it just cannot possibly make sense of being possible,”  This quote answers many challenges to God’s omnipotence.  If God is eternal and not physical = no body to climb a tree = illogical to argue otherwise.  Illogical to argue that God can change the past. “absolutely impossible that it did not take place, for it implies a contradiction.”  Omnipotence is an aspect of God's nature = God cannot sin because contradicts God’s nature as good.  Anselm agrees: God cannot sin as shows a lack of control = lacks power
  16. 16. Omnipotence is a statement of the power of God  Anthony Kenny: omnipotence is best understood as a statement of God's power.  “A being is omnipotent if it has every power which it is logically possible to possess.”  Logically possible for us to climb Mount Everest – just because it is logically possible does not mean I have the power to do so.  However in the case of God, God is the omnipotent Creator = not only means it is logically possible but also that God has the power to do so e.g. miracles.
  17. 17. Omniscience  Omniscience: Perfection of God includes unlimited knowledge of past, present and future. God is outside of time – knows whole of time from beginning to end (eternal)  Limited omniscience: limited to what is logically possible. God chooses to limit what he knows = human freewill. God's knowledge changes overtime (everlasting) Anselm “you are supremely perceptive.”
  18. 18. Does God know the future as part of his Omniscience? Yes: Divine Foreknowledge:  God foreknows all my acts  What God foresees must come to pass  Therefore, if my acts must come to pass, then they cannot be free This view is supported by Calvin:  Predestination = before creation God determined the fate of the universe throughout all of time and space.  God chooses some to be saved (pre elected) and some to be damned.  Irresistible Grace (TULIP) when a person is predestined for heaven. No matter what they do and no matter what they think, they are saved.  Supported by Scripture (“In love He predestined us...” Ephesians 1:5)  Modern day followers: Phelps family -Westborough Baptist Church X N. Geisler If our sins are predetermined, then we have no real control over them and our will is not free. In fact, it is God’s will working through us. “Moral determinism makes God immoral and makes humans amoral.”
  19. 19. Team Boethius (we love you) Problem for Boethius: how God can have Divine foreknowledge of the future (full omniscience) and human beings still remain free agents.  Discussion with Lady Philosophy in Book 5 “The Consolation of Philosophy.”  “hopeless conflict between Divine (God) foreknowledge of all things and freedom of human will.” (Boethius)  Foreknowledge = Knowledge before something happens – knowledge of the future. If God knows the future of our actions how are our actions therefore free?  Boethius continues that if God sees everything in advance (all our acts/ plans/wishes/thoughts/ choices) and God cannot be fooled or deceived then whatever God’s ‘Providence’ foresees will happen.  Providence = knowledge of the future  This future cannot change otherwise what God sees is just “fallible opinion” not knowledge  Fallible = imperfect
  20. 20. Pointless to argue a Pre deterministic God (similar to Calvinism) whereby God has knowledge of all our actions because ….. It will be pointless to reward and punish – if not free/voluntary then good/wicked acts are not governed by my own will = unjust to punish and reward someone. Therefore the author = responsible for vices and Virtues. If God was pre-deterministic then all human events depend on God’s Providence not man’s intention (Boethius wants to avoid this view at all costs). So....many pages later.... = answer to this fundamental problem God is eternal. God’s eternity explains how God can be both Omniscient and how humans can still have freewill. Answer from Boethius
  21. 21. How?  God does not see past, present and future but all of time together as the “eternal present.” e.g. cluster  God sees all of time but does not distinguish what is in the past, present or future.  God does not know events as in the past or future but just the events.  God lives in an “eternal present” all time is eternally present and never past or future.  So Boethius concludes that this is “not knowledge of future events, but knowledge of a never changing present.”
  22. 22. Summary of Boethius  God does not have Divine Foreknowledge  God does not know past , present and future – this is the human perspective on time and life passing  God just knows everything including all history in a ‘single glance.’  This means that God is justified in reward and punishing us as we are totally free to decide our actions.  In other words, God has eternal omniscience but not Divine Foreknowledge because this means God would determine our actions.  God knows everything but as a ‘collective whole knowledge’ not what happens in past, present or future = still have freewill.
  23. 23. Aquinas  God has a ‘bird eye’ view on the whole of history that is theocentric – from God's perspective  God not interfere with our freewill (Walkers up the hill)  Good for the middle part of essay – link between arguments “God sees all things together and not successively” This means God sees everything but not linear – like the human perspective on time. God takes in all history as a whole. (Not Divine Foreknowledge)
  24. 24. Everlasting Omniscience Option 1: Option 2: Option 3: God’s omniscience is limited to what is logically possible. Future has not yet happened = unknown. Therefore God's omniscience is not ‘limited’ (lack of power) because impossible to know what does not exist or has not existed yet. God is omniscient = perfect knowledge of what has occurred and is occurring. This means God's knowledge changes over time God can acquire new knowledge as time passes. God makes the deliberate choice to limit what he knows = human freewill. God is aware of all possible choices but we are free to decide which one to choose.
  25. 25. Possible solutions?  Swinburne- The Coherence of Theism  God does not know what will happen in the future  An omniscient being knows every true proposition…  But a future action isn’t ‘true’ or ‘false’ until it has happened  So an omniscient being does not have to know them (supports option one) Augustine: God simply knows our choices.(3) Luis of Molina : God’s omniscience includes all possibilities for the future. (3)
  26. 26. Immutability: Unchanging  Change involves movement from one thing to another  God is perfect = lacks nothing  What problems might it pose for omniscience?  Can God really know everything if God doesn’t know what it is like to change?  Can God ‘know’ new events as they happen if God doesn’t change?  Brian Davies: anything that changes is part of the world and not distinct from it. So if God is creator God needs to be separate and thus unchanging.
  27. 27. Simplicity  Aquinas: God signifies ‘being/ existing.’  Augustine: God is unchangeable cannot lose or gain characteristics  Brian Davies: not like ‘a human being’ but God is whole like ‘the human race.’  “And God possesses this present instant comprehension of ….. From his own simplicity.” Boethius
  28. 28. Philosophical Problems Divine Foreknowledge But the problem is:  how can humans still be held responsible for their actions?  How can human actions be judged ‘evil’ and therefore punished if they do not have free will?  And does this make God responsible for suffering?  Classic problem of evil= Epicurus & Hume Boethius Omniscience  Can God really know everything if God doesn’t know what it is like to change?  Tries to support freewill of humans and allows for God to reward and punish justly.  But even if God just sees events not on a timescale are we totally free? Limited omniscience Can God ‘know’ new events as they happen if God doesn’t change? And if God does change with humans is God still perfect? If God cannot see the future, even if it is logically impossible to see, does that take away God’s omnipotence?
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