Characteristics of a Supreme Being
– part of an ongoing examination of the question: “Does God Exist?” –
So, we can characterize God as being omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent…
But wait, we didn’t finish trying to understand those terms? What about the possible limitations we talked about?
Like, if he’s all-powerful can he (1) sit in a chair at a time when he is not sitting in that chair, or can he (2) create a square circle, or can he (3) create a boulder so heavy that he can’t lift it?
Stop for a moment and ask yourself, what do all those examples have in common?
Well, I guess you could say that they are logical impossibilities.
Okay… Problem solved. Let’s just agree that God is “all-powerful” in the sense that “he can do anything that is logically possible.”
And, remember, we wondered if God is all-knowing, would he ever mistakenly claim that (1) the surface of the earth is flat, or that (2) two plus two equals five, or that (3) ‘potato’ is spelled p-o-t-a-t-o-e?
Since those can be classified as falsehoods, let’s agree that God is “all-knowing” in the sense that “he knows all truths.”
But what about the challenging idea that if God knows the future, then whatever is going to happen has to happen, and therefore we don’t really have free will? But if we do have free will, and can arbitrarily change our mind, then the future is unpredictable and God is not really omniscient?
Well, future free actions would be logically impossible to know, so let’s clarify our definition by saying that “he knows all truths that are logically possible to know.”
We had a problem understanding this characteristic, too.
Yes, there were two possible ways to interpret the claim that God always does the right (or good) thing.
1. If God is “automatically” right (or good) whenever he does something, that makes morality arbitrary and fails to provide us with reasons for understanding why various actions are right or wrong.
2. If God could do wrong but he is as a “matter of fact” always right (or good), that implies that there are good reasons why something is right or wrong but also tempts us to judge God by an independent standard of morality.
Most would agree that the second interpretation is the least objectionable, don’t you think?
So… that would mean the best definition of God being “all-good” is to say that “whatever he wills/commands/does is, as a matter of fact, the right (or good) thing to do.
Just as a matter of record, besides being (1) omniscient, (2) omnipotent, and (3) omnibenevolent, a Supreme Being is usually said to be (4) eternal – always existed, always will – and (5) holy, in the sense of being worthy of our worship.
The question now is, which we will tackle shortly, are there any good reasons for thinking that a God (or Supreme Being) with those exalted characteristics actually exists.