bookmark_borderGeisler’s Five Ways – Part 15: Omnipotent, Omniscient, and Perfectly Good?

Dr. Norman Geisler uses cosmological arguments to show that God is very powerful, and a teleological argument to show that God is very intelligent, and a moral argument to show that God is good (When Skeptics Ask [hereafter: WSA], p.26-27).  But in Phase 4 of his case, he has not yet attempted to show that God exists.  At best he has attempted to show that there is exactly one being that caused the universe to begin to exist, and that this being is very powerful, very intelligent, and is morally good.  Geisler has failed miserably at this attempt, but that is what he was actually trying to establish, so far.
A final step in Phase 4 is his attempt to show that the being that caused the universe is omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly morally good:
Because of his necessity, He can only have whatever He has in a necessary way.  That means, as we have seen, without beginning,  without change, and without limitation.  So while the argument from Creation tells us that He has power, the argument from being shows us that it is perfect, unlimited power.  The argument from design tells us that He is intelligent, but His necessity informs us that His knowledge is uncreated, unchanging, and infinite.  The moral order suggests that He is good, but the perfection of His being means that He must be all good in a perfect and unlimited way.  (WSA, p.28)
In the previous post I criticized Argument 3 of Phase 4, which included an inference to the conclusion that the being that caused the universe to begin to exist had no limitations.  That argument failed (in part) because it was based on a fallacy of equivocation on the phrase “to not be” (among other problems).  In this post I will consider a second argument that Geisler makes for a similar conclusion:
Argument 4 of Phase 4

90. The being that caused the universe to begin to exist is a necessary being.

91. If a being B is a necessary being, then all of the attributes being B has are had by B in a necessary way.

92. If all of the attributes being B has are had by B in a necessary way, then all of the attributes being B has are had by B without any limitation.

THEREFORE:

93. All of the attributes that the being that caused the universe to begin to exist has, are attributes that the being that caused the universe to begin to exist has without any limitation.

94.  The being that caused the universe to begin to exist has the attributes of power, knowledge, and moral goodness.

THEREFORE:

95. The being that caused the universe to begin to exist has unlimited power, unlimited knowledge, and unlimited moral goodness.

96.  If a being B has unlimited power, unlimited knowledge, and unlimited moral goodness, then being B is omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly morally good.

THEREFORE:

97. The being that caused the universe to begin to exist is omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly morally good.

One standard objection to traditional arguments for the existence of God is that, at best, they only show the existence of a being with finite power, finite knowledge, and limited moral goodness.  The above argument is Geisler’s attempt to get around that standard objection.  His attempt, like every other argument in this case, fails.
First of all, premise (90) is doubly dubious, because (a) Geisler failed to show that there was exactly one being that caused the universe to begin to exist, and (b) Geisler also failed to show that the being that caused the universe to exist (if there were such a being) was a necessary being.  The “Argument from Being” that Geisler presents is based on an analysis of the concept of “God”, but Geisler has not shown anything about God or the existence of God yet; he has only attempted to show the existence of a being that caused the universe to begin to exist, and he failed even at that lesser task.  Because Geisler is still working his way towards showing that God exists, he cannot make use of his “Argument from Being” to support the claim that the being who caused the universe to begin to exist is a necessary being.  Therefore, premise (90) is doubly dubious, and provides a very shaky foundation for Argument 4 of Phase 4.
Premise (91) is also very dubious, for more than one reason.  First of all, this premise is NOT self-evidently true, so Geisler needs to provide reasons or evidence in support of (91), but he provides no such support for this premise.  Second, the notion of having an attribute “in a necessary way” is vague and unclear, so Geisler needs to provide a definition or clarification of what this phrase means, but he provides no definition or clarification of this phrase.  One cannot evaluate the truth of (91) unless and until the phrase “in a necessary way” is defined or clarified.
Third, if we interpret the notion of having an attribute “in a necessary way” as meaning that it is a necessary truth that the being in question has that attribute, then this leads to an apparent contradicition with Christian theology.   God, according to Christian theology, did NOT have to create the universe; God freely chose to create the universe, and was not compelled or necessitated to do so.  But one of God’s attributes is being the creator of the universe.  If God is a necessary being, as Geisler asserts, and thus each of God’s attributes corresponds to a necessary truth, then it is a necessary truth that “God created the universe” (or “If God exists, then God created the universe”).  But if this is a necessary truth, then it is logically impossible for God to NOT have created the universe, and thus God did NOT freely choose to create the universe, but was compelled to do so out of logical necessity.  Therefore, premise (91) contradicts a basic claim of Christian theology.
There are good reasons to believe that premise (92) is false, if we assume that (91) is true.  First, the number three is a necessary being, since it cannot not exist.  But the quantity represented by the number three is clearly limited; that is what makes it the number three, as opposed to the number four, or the number five thousand.  The number three is less than the number four, and it is this very limitation that constitutes the nature of the number three.  Thus, a necessary being can have a limitation.
Second, God is the creator of the universe and a necessary being, according to Geisler and according to Christian theology, but the universe is finite both in duration and in size.  If God’s power and knowledge are unlimited, then God could have created an infinite universe, but God, if God exists, created a finite universe.  So, even if God had the potential to create an infinite universe, it appears that he did not actualize that potential.  God’s attribute of being a “creator of stars, planets, and galaxies” is a limited attribute, not an infinite and unlimited attribute.   But in that case, premise (92) would be false, assuming premise (91) was true, because at least one attribute of a necessary being is limited and finite.
The conclusion (93) follows validly from the premises (90), (91), and (92), assuming that there are no equivocations, such as with the unclear phrase “in a necessary way”.  However, each of the three premises is dubious, so this argument for (93) fails.
Premise (94) is a question begging assumption, because Geisler has only attempted to show that the cause of the universe is powerful, the designer of the universe has knowledge, and the lawmaker of moral laws is morally good.  He has made no attempt to show that these three beings (if they exist) are one and the same being.   Geisler also failed to show that there was just one cause of the universe, just one designer of the universe, and just one moral lawmaker.  So, this premise is doubly dubious.  Geisler failed to show that there was just one of each of these types of beings, and Geisler failed to show that these three beings (or types of being) are all one and the same being.  Therefore, Geisler hasn’t even come close to showing that the cause of the universe is powerful AND knowledgable AND morally good.
Since both premise (93) and (94) are dubious, the argument for (95) fails.
Premise (96) appears to be true, but since Geisler failed to provide a solid argument for premise (95), his argument for (97) also fails, just like every other argument in his unbelievably crappy case for God.

bookmark_borderAquinas’ Argument for the Existence of God – Part 6

A key part of Aquinas’ argument for the existence of God in Summa Theologica is found in Question 14, Article 1: “Whether There Is Knowledge in God?”.  In that article, Aquinas argues for the conclusion that “In God there exists the most perfect knowledge.”  The word “God” here is a misleading translation, and I take this claim to mean the following:
(MPK) In the first principle there exists the most perfect knowledge.
Aquinas provides only ONE argument for this conclusion (at least in Summa Theologica), and this conclusion is essential to Aquinas’ argument for the existence of God, so if that ONE argument fails, then Aquinas’ argument for the existence of God (in Summa Theologica) also fails.
NOTE: Aquinas might have other arguments for the existence of God in other writings; I’m only concerned here about his argument for God in Summa Theologica.
This conclusion (MPK) is critical to the success of Aquinas’ argument for the existence of God, because it is the basis on which Aquinas argues for three key divine attributes:
(AKB) The first principle is an all-knowing being
(see Question 14, Articles 2 through 6)
(PLB) The first principle is a perfectly-loving being.
(see Question 20, Articles 1 through 4, and Question 19, Article 1)
(PJB) The first principle is a perfectly-just being.
(see Question 21, Article 1, and Question 19, Article 1).
Thus, if Aquinas fails to prove (MPK), then he also fails to prove that the first principle is all knowing, and fails to prove that it is perfectly loving, and fails to prove that it is perfectly just.  If Aquinas fails to prove that these divine attributes apply to the first principle, then he fails to prove that God exists, because these are basic and essential divine attributes.  If Aquinas cannot show that these divine attributes apply to the first principle, then he cannot show that the first principle is God (in the ordinary sense of the word “God”), and thus cannot show that God exists.
Aquinas’ ONE argument for (MPK) concludes with these words (from Question 14, Article 1):
Since therefore God is in the highest degree of immateriality, as stated above (Q. VII, A. I), it follows that He occupies the highest place in knowledge.
This means that the ONE argument that Aquinas gives for (MPK) is based on the following assumption (because the word “God” is a misleading traslation here, I have rephrased the premise using a more generic term):
(HDI)  The first principle is in the highest degree of immateriality.
Aquinas indicates that (HDI) is argued for in Question 7, Article 1.  But Question 7, Article 1 is specifically about “Whether God Is Infinite?”.   The conclusion of that article is that “God is infinite.”  The word “God” is a misleading translation here, and I take this conclusion to mean this:
(FPI) The first principle is infinite.
Again Aquinas gives only ONE argument for the conclusion (FPI).  Presumably, Aquinas believes that (FPI) implies (HDI), or that (FPI) can be used as a premise in an argument for (HDI), making the conclusion of Question 7, Article 1 relevant to the assumption (HDI), which he needs in order to prove the key claim (MPK).
The ONE argument given by Aquinas for (FPI) concludes with these words (from Question 7, Article 1):
Since therefore the divine being is not a being received in anything, but He is His own subsistent being as was shown above (Q. III, A. 4), it is clear that God Himself is infinite and perfect.
The word “God” here is misleading; the phrase “the divine being” is better, but to be consistent with how the other key claims have been phrased I take this premise to mean this:
(OSB)  The first principle is its own sufficient being.
Here is the logical structure of the core argument within the overall structure of Aquinas’ argument for the existence of God (in Summa Theologica):
(OSB)–>(FPI)–>(HDI)–>(MPK)
If Aquinas fails to prove (OSB), then Aquinas fails to prove (MPK), and if Aquinas fails to prove (MPK), then Aquinas fails to prove the existence of God, because (MPK) is needed to establish that the first principle has three key divine attributes (i.e. is all knowing, perfectly loving, and perfectly just).
Furthermore, if any of the inferences here are mistaken or illogical, then Aquinas fails to prove (MPK), and thus fails to prove the existence of God (note that additional premises are often stated and required).  Therefore, this chain of reasoning is essential to Aquinas’ argument for the existence of God as given in Summa Theologica.
In the passage quoted above, Aquinas indicates that (OSB) is proven in Question 3, Article 4:  “Whether Essence and Being Are the Same in God?”.  In this article, Aquinas gives THREE arguments in support of (OSB).
The first argument connects back to the 2nd of the Five Ways.  Here is a key part of this first argument (from Question 3, Article 4):
Therefore that thing whose being differs from its essence must have its being caused caused by another.  But this cannot be said of God, because we call God the first efficient cause.  Therefore it is impossible that in God His being should differ from His essence.
The word “God” is a misleading translation, so I take the key premise here to mean this:
(FEC)  The first principle is the first efficient cause.
So, (FEC) is a key premise in an argument that Aquinas offers to prove (OSB):
(FEC)–>(OSB)
The second argument for (OSB) ends this way (from Question 3, Article 4):
Therefore, since in God there is no potentiality, as shown above (A. I), it follows that in Him essence does not differ from His being.  Therefore His essence is His being.
The word “God” is a misleading translation; I understand the key premise here this way:
(HNP) The first principle has no potentiality.
So, Aquinas uses (HNP) as a premise in an argument to prove (OSB):
(HNP)–>(OSB)
The third argument for (OSB) concludes this way (from Question 3, Article 4):
But God is His own essence, as shown above (A. 3); if, therefore, He is not His own being He will be not essential, but participated being.  He will not therefore be the first being–which is absurd.  Therefore God is His own being, and not merely his own essence.
A key premise in this argument is that “God is His own essence”.  The word “God” is a misleading translation, so I take this premise to mean this:
(IOE)  The first principle is its own essence.
Aquinas takes (IOE) to be a key premise in an argument to prove (OSB):
(IOE)–>(OSB)
Now we can take the core argument in Aquinas’ overall argument for the existence of God and add the three main conclusions on the back end, and add the three main reasons/premises for (OSB) on the front end (click on the image below to get a clearer view of the chart):
Aquinas Argument for God -RevA
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
1. This entire chain of reasoning exists OUTSIDE of the Five Ways passage (which is found in Question 2, Article 3).
2. This chain of reasoning is ESSENTIAL to Aquinas’ argument for the existence of God in Summa Theologica. (If this chain of reasoning fails, then Aquinas’ argument for the existence of God in Summa Theologica fails.)
THEREFORE:
3. The Five Ways passage does NOT contain any proof of the existence of God (not even just one proof).
Furthermore, although there are three separate arguments given in support of (OSB), there is only ONE chain of reasoning from (OSB) to the key claim (MPK), and there is only ONE chain of reasoning from (MPK) to the conclusion that God exists, namely to arrive at the conjunction of  (AKB), (PLB), and (PJB), plus a few other key divine attributes.  Thus, although one could technically construct three different proofs based on the structure of the logic shown in the chart above, the reasoning in those three proofs would be identical starting from the point at which one concludes that (OSB) is the case.
That is to say, about 80% of the proof or chain of reasoning would be identical between the “three proofs”.  The only difference between the proofs would be how one initially proves or argues for the key claim (OSB).  It seems more reasonable to me to say that there is just ONE argument for the existence of God in Summa Theologica, but that a key premise of that argument is supported by three different sub-arguments.  It would certainly be very misleading to assert that “There are three separate and distinct arguments for the existence of God in Summa Theologica.”
So, I still hold the view that there are ZERO proofs of the existence of God in the Five Ways passage, and that there is just ONE argument for the existence of God in Summa Theologica.