Traits of God and challenges they face, image source Pixabay

The Traits of God - & Challenges They Face

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In every society, there are some people who believe that God exists (theists), some people who don’t (atheists), and some people who are still deciding (agnostics).

But what do people mean by ‘God’? What is the concept of God that leads the debate about his existence? [1]

In this article, we will discuss some popularly accepted traits of God and problems related to their relevance.


All & Everything Conception of God

In the Abrahamic faiths of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, the general idea of God is that of a perfect being who has, at any rate, three traits or qualities:

  1. Omnipotence (being almighty),
  2. Omni-kindheartedness (being all good), and
  3. Omniscience (being all-knowing).

Other normally associated traits which normally found in Hindu traditions include:

  1.  Omni presence (God exists, he is everywhere, and couldn’t cease to exist)
  2. Aseity (God’s existence doesn’t rely upon anything; God is uncaused),
  3. Unchanging nature (God doesn’t change), and
  4. Eternal presence (God exists outside of time).

For now, let’s focus on the first three traits only, as only those are essential to our discussion. Because the latter attributes are contentious. E.g. — someone might say if God exists everywhere, then it automatically proves his existence. This kind of argument cannot be accepted in a debate about the existence of God.


Trait 1: Omnipotence

Everyone believes God to be an all-powerful, or omnipotent being. But, what is the meaning of this?

Renowned theologian St. Augustine proposed that omnipotence means that God can do anything he wants. But what could God want? Can God wish for anything which is logically impossible, e.g.-1+1=3? or make an object that is both round and square simultaneously? Most scholars suggest that omnipotence merely includes the ability to achieve logically compatible things.

Even if God’s power is limited to just logically conceivable activities, there are some issues.

A great conundrum, examined by Islamic scholar Ibn Rushd (Averroes), asks whether God’s power would permit God to make a stone so heavy that he himself couldn’t lift it. The catch is this:

  1. If God can make such a stone, that he himself couldn’t lift it, then he isn’t all-powerful. As there would be something which will be beyond God’s power.
  2. Be that as it may, however, if God can’t make this stone, then God isn’t omnipotent since this is something he can’t do.

Responses to this are varying among scholars. But most of them have concluded that — creating the stone is not logically correct. As the stone is described as something which can and cannot be lifted, a contradiction, thus an impracticality.


Trait 2: OmniKindness

Omni-benevolent might mean that a being who is perfectly righteous — kind, fair, and loving — and not cruel, malicious person who causes or allows unnecessary violence. Omni-benevolent is someone who never does anything wrong.

But the question is, ‘Is God unable to do anything wrong?’ Or can an Omni-kind choose to be cruel, even he never chooses to?

Again the catch is: If God is unable to do anything wrong, then, is there any meaningful sense in God’s goodness?

Understand this from the human perspective, 

suppose there are two people, Ram and Shyam. Ram is kind and generous because he thinks that’s the right way to live, even when he forced to act cruelly. Shyam, on the other hand, is kind and generous because he literally cannot be any other way. He can’t do wrong even he is forced to do so. 

Who is the better here?

People who think Ram is better will deny God’s goodness as irreproachable (can’t be argued as due to his literal inability to do bad.) People who think Shyam is better will deny the assumption that the freedom to do anything is an essential element while judging the goodness of anyone. According to them, God could be similar to Shyam without any scarcity in goodness.

Euthyphro Dilemma:

 Along these lines, there is a very similar puzzle found in Plato’s dialogue, in which Socrates asks Euthyphro-

Does God do what is good because it is good, or is whatever God does is good because God does it?

Here, the first notion makes God subjected to an independent concept of Goodness to which even he has to follow. The second notion, on the contrary, implies that whatever God wishes is automatically good. So, if God wishes for something bad, even that would turn out to be good.


Trait 3: Omniscience

Omniscience is usually described as knowing it all there is to be known. Things get complex, in any case, when we consider whether God knows truths about the future, and assuming this is the case, how this bears on our free will. For instance, if God knows that you are going to fail your semester exams, then it appears that it eliminates the possibility that you are free to pass the exam with preparation.

Scholars vary in their responses to this issue, still according to their beliefs, we have our free will irrespective of whether anyone (including God) knows about our future or not.


Conclusion

The suggested traits may stir up some difficult questions, however, attention to these points can help make a discussion about the nature and presence of God more productive.

And also make our understanding more clear about in what kind of God, people believe to exist, people who do not believe exist, and people who are still deciding.


Footnotes

  1. There are few people who use the word ‘God’ to relate to ideas different from the idea focused on here. For instance, someone may consider ‘God’ another name for ‘love’ or ‘nature.’ Although anyone can use the word ‘God’ basically any way they’d like, it is important to clarify one’s own idea of God before engaging in debate about his existence. So to make this discussion explicitly about the presence of God, we will focus on a more conventional understanding, idea, or belief of God.

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