Identifying The Cause: Omnipotence

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omnipotence paradox

Part 2 – Identifying “The Cause”

3. Omnipotence

Omnipotence is perhaps the most misunderstood characteristic attributed to God.  Before I can make the case for the omnipotence of the cause of the universe, we must understand what it is.

The most common definition I hear is that omnipotence means the ability to do anything.  What is ambiguous about this definition is the definition of “anything”.  Does it mean the object of any combination of words, letters or symbols?  Can an omnipotent being do agajkohgiohjgiaohgih?  There are two possible responses to this question.  The first is, certainly, whatever that means; an omnipotent being can do anything.  The second is, “what exactly are we talking about?”  If the question doesn’t even make sense, does it matter if there is an answer to it?  Does this even qualify as “anything”?

No, it doesn’t.  If you don’t ask a meaningful question, how can you receive a meaningful answer?  An answer is only meaningful in the context of the question.  “Yes” and “no” are not the least bit helpful when nobody knows what we are talking about.

A common method of attempting to disprove Theism is to ask a question about God’s omnipotence in order to show that this critical characteristic is logically absurd; and therefore God does not exist.  The classic example pits God’s power against himself, by asking, “can God create a rock so heavy even He can’t lift it?”  On the surface the question seems to make sense.  We can understand that a being with incredible power could create matter such as rocks, & we understand that rocks require some degree of power to move, and a larger degree of power for larger rocks.

Ok, now what exactly are we proposing God create?  Let’s clearly define an object too heavy for God to move, and then we can evaluate whether He would be capable of moving it.  But for a being who created matter in the first place, there doesn’t seem to be any reasonable limit to the amount of matter which can be moved.  The result is not a limit of God’s power to create; but a lack of a meaningful question.  Why not ask, “can God create a rock so purple that He can’t lift it?”  The weight of the rock is as irrelevant as its colour.

So this idea of omnipotence meaning the object of any combination of words, letters or symbols is clearly absurd.  It seems to me there are two groups of people unwilling to give up this definition.  The first are those who insist that God must have this characteristic in order to disprove His existence by showing that the characteristic is irrational & no being could possibly possess it.  The second are Theists who appeal to this characteristic as an excuse for anything intellectually troubling.  It’s an intellectual get-out-of-jail-free card.  If it seems like your religion might not be rational; that’s ok because God transcends reason.  If you want some entertainment, try to get one of each of these types together to debate the existence of God.

So what is omnipotence?  Omnipotent is Latin; the combination of “omni” (all) & “potent” (powerful).  It literally means possessing all power.  Therefore an omnipotent being can do anything that power can do.  It can’t increase the pressure of water to the point that unicorns pop out of it.  It can’t create a round square.

Finally, how do we know that the cause of the universe is omnipotent?  Simply because it created the entire universe in the first place.  If something can create matter & time, from nothing besides its own power, including the various cosmological constants which make up the laws of nature, then it can do so again on any scale.  It can make any change to any part of the universe, create any new object; in short, that being must be all-powerful over the universe, or omnipotent.

Resource Recommendation – Roots of Christian Civilization – YouTube

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Written by Mrs. Igniscient

Roots of Christian Civilization – YouTube.

It doesn’t take long for anyone who knows us to see my husband is the Science and Math part of this relationship and I am the Literature and History half. He is the nerd and I am the geek, and if you don’t know the difference, nerd is all intellect and geek is all Star Wars/Super Heroes/Doctor Who (I just started with that show but it was inevitable). William Lane Craig usually appeals to “the nerd” and I never really knew much about him other than that he dealt with a lot science stuff.

This YouTube playlist was my introduction to Dr. Craig and it is an excellent look into the culture and lives of the first Christians. I love world history and especially Christian History, and this is an excellent look into the world of the early Christians.

Identifying The Cause: Personality

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Personality

Part 2 – Identifying “The Cause”

2.2 Personality

Continuing in the task of identifying the cause of the universe & morality, today we will look at personality.

Everything that exists is either contingent or necessary.  Because these are opposites, this statement is a necessary truth, like saying, “everything that exists is either a narwhale or not a narwhale” or “there’s 10 kinds of people, those who understand binary & those who don’t”.  A contingent thing can exist or not exist; like a delicious bass, the whole universe, or Justin Bieber.  A necessary thing, as the name implies, cannot possibly fail to exist, like abstract realities such as numbers or the laws of logic.

Now, we’ve already established that the cause is immaterial & eternal.  If it is eternal, then it is a necessary being; because 1) it was not caused to exist by anything else & 2) it does not change (then it would be temporal), so it cannot cease to exist at any time.

But what is that cause like?  Is it personal or non-personal?  For example, if the effect was the warming of a room we might ask, was the cause a natural process, like the rising of the sun, or was it an intelligent agent, like a person turning a furnace on?  If the cause was natural, then any time the cause exists, the effect must exist.  If the sun rises, the temperature rises.  If the cause is a person, then the person can exist without causing the effect until he so chooses.

Ok, why is this important?  If the cause of the universe was a naturally determined process, then the effect must exist eternally along with the cause.  But we already know the effect (the universe) is not eternal.  Therefore, whatever caused the universe to exist is a personal being; that is, an intelligent being who chose to create the universe.

Resource – 100 Bible Verses Everyone should Know by Heart

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100 Bible Verses Everyone Should Know

Written by Mrs. Ignicient

It’s amazing how far behind you can get when coping with something that has thrown life off. The kids have been taking turns being sick and have been very good about sharing germs with each other, and our toddler who is generally moody and dramatic to begin with has turned into a banshee. Finally last night we realized that she is coping with molars that are coming through. It is amazing how knowing what the cause of the crankiness is makes it easier to cope with the cranky child.

Of course instead of using down times to catch up on reading or life in general I end up staring mindlessly at a screen, usually a computer screen, usually youtube. I am a little dumbfounded how far behind I am on my reading goals, but I am back in action and have a plan to get caught up. I am currently 4 books behind, but have caught up on my bible reading. I am hoping that next week I will have an apologetics book for you again.

Book: 100 Bible Verses Everyone Should Know by Heart
Author: Robert J. Morgan
Description: Part one of the book is a case for why scripture memory is so important, and part two goes through each verse and explains it’s importance to the Christian faith/life
How I heard about it: I found it at Goodwill, we buy most of our books at thrift stores, if we buy them at all, our city library is the first place I check for resources. 

Thoughts: I have not finished reading it through yet, and while I didn’t need to be convinced I should memorize scripture, the stories really touched my heart and lit a fire under my butt. The verses are strategically chosen and ordered. They are meant to give the Christian what they need if they suddenly can’t read the bible for themselves. This is not just a risk for those in places that are dangerous for Christians, there have been times when I have been too ill to read, the sheer effort of trying to make sense of words on a page has been more than I can bear, and I have wished I had more scripture written on my heart at those times.

Major points that I took away: There are so many great little stories and anecdotes in this book, the best so far has been that in the Jewish culture in bible times meditate had connotations of muttering to oneself. Take God’s word and mutter it to yourself.  Meditation in the Christian life is not emptying your mind but filling your mind with God. The case for scripture memorization is strong, and the book’s website even has printable cards to help you get started.

Any good book should make you want to read another: Then Sings My Soul by Robert J. Morgan – stories of the hymns. Hymns have also been a huge comfort to me in times of illness and I love testimonies so this series seems like it is right up my alley. 

 

Identifying “The Cause”: Immaterial & Eternal

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Part 2 – Identifying “The Cause”

Up to this point I have argued for the existence of some being, which is both the cause of the universe coming into existence & the source of transcendent moral law.  But who or what is this being?  As many point out, just because something caused the universe or moral obligations to exist doesn’t mean that something is the God of the Bible.  This stage in my argument will identify certain characteristics of this being, which will help us narrow down who or what it may be.  I’m going to break this task up into the various characteristics that we can deduce about the cause of the universe on our own (without needing a special revelation from God, for instance).

2.1. Immaterial & Eternal

We already know that this being caused the universe to begin to exist.  Therefore we know also that it cannot be a part of the same universe it caused.  But could it be a part of some other kind of universe which is like this one – that is, a physical world where events occur in time?  For the same reasons that we know that this physical universe must have a cause, any similar physical universe would have the same requirement.  We would then be inquiring into the nature of that cause, rather than the cause of our own universe; but for simplicity’s sake, let us assume there is no middle man.

Therefore, the cause of the universe is not a material or temporal being.  That is, it is not composed of physical parts, nor does it have spatial relationships with anything else, and therefore it does not experience changes in those spatial relationships (what we call time).  This idea of non-temporality is often described by the word “eternal”.  This is sometimes confusing because what many people think of the word “eternal” is something infinite.  We went over this earlier, but this view of an infinite past is logically absurd (not that it is ridiculous, but that the concept doesn’t hold water).  It sounds like it makes sense at first, but when you really press it the idea is incomprehensible, like a round square.  For this reason, it seems appropriate to me to use “eternal” for what I have been describing, and use “infinite” for both the incoherent idea of infinite past time as well as for the (coherent) concept of a never ending future time.

This kind of existence is also called “spirit”; not because of any characteristic that we understand about it, but because of the understanding that it lacks any physical characteristic.  What that leaves us with exactly is something of a mystery.  But don’t misunderstand that we are unsure that this is true about the cause of the universe; we can be very certain of this fact, of which we have little understanding.

Random Apologetics – Which Worldview is Smarter?

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Topic randomly selected from a list of apologetic questions.

#17. Is Christianity a less intelligent worldview than Atheism? Why or why not?

Ok, I think everyone knows what I’m going to say about this one. No Christianity is not a less intelligent worldview than Atheism. Well, if you guessed that answer, you’re only half right. I think it both is & is not less intelligent.

First the obvious (to Christians). Christianity is true; therefore how could it possibly be less intelligent than Atheism? Case closed!

Next the obvious (to Atheists). Christians can’t defend their beliefs & often don’t even think it’s important to do so; “you just have to have faith!” Regardless of the truth value, for those Christians who don’t think justification for their central beliefs is important, it is certainly a less intelligent worldview.

So really what we have are at least two distinct worldviews that include the beliefs of Christianity. One worldview accepts it uncritically, but the other worldview includes a deep commitment to truth (or the Truth), which causes those who hold this view to critically examine their beliefs to be sure that they have believed the truth. They have found the evidence for Christianity to be compelling & the Atheistic alternative severely lacking.

So I believe we are dealing with three worldviews in this question. The blind faith brand of Christianity is less intelligent than Atheism (though still preferable because it is still the truth); which is in turn less intelligent than the critical, thinking person’s Christianity (the kind of Christianity the NT writers like Paul & Luke could be proud of).

Resource – Jesus Storybook Bible

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The Jesus Storybook Bible

Written by Mrs. Igniscient

I am going to endeavor to recommend a parenting or children’s resource at the end of every month. This bible story book is great. It’s main premises is that every story in the bible “whispers” Jesus name. The illustrations are engaging and age appropriate, no illustrations of a beheaded John the Baptist like I had in my children’s bible growing up. Our girls love it and I am intrigued by the accompanying resources (videos, cd’s and a church curriculum).