Omni-benevolent, Omnipotent, and Omniscient


First off, I guess I must be described as a Christian, at least that would be my cultural background.

As a matter of fact though – I have never practised religion, it plays no part in my life, nor my family.

I also have never read the Bible. Most of my knowledge comes from lurking places like this one, reading what is written and applying common sense to the arguments as they are given. I highly thank many of the people of this place for spending their time putting forward their points of view, and spending their time explaining the factual parts. I am pretty sure that among the many lurkers, or people like me who really don’t know enough to even enter a discussion, your efforts, although not always acknowledged are highly appreciated. So yeah – thanks people (of both sides of the coin).

I post this here as it appears that discussions of religion – in this case the Christian one ( I think) often lead to backs and forth more suitable for this forum.

A major issue as I understand it seems to be the problem of evil – as applied to the (commonly described) Christian God.

Having not read the Bible, could someone educate me?

Where exactly is it stated that God is Omni-benevolent, Omnipotent, and Omniscient ?

Is this just an interpretation – or is it explicitly stated?

Excuse my ignorance :slight_smile: And thanks again for your time.

God is not omni-benevolent.

He HATES Amelekites.
(among others)

Pick two.

Has to be the right two. Omnipotent and omniscient doesn’t work either.

Omnipotent includes the ability to switch on the other two as well. So maybe that one should just be left out.

I’ve wondered this as well, the God of the bible is full of limitations. He asks questions. He tortures a guy to see if he’ll squeak. The takes six days to create the universe and needs to rest.

You can be the most powerful thing in the universe without being omnipotent. The Christian desire for an all powerful God is just pathetic playground “I’m unstoppable times infinity!” posturing.

The whole tri-omni thing is one of my pet peeves when it’s brought up by (my fellow) atheists in order to show its logical impossibility.

“Omni-benevolent,” “omniscient” and “omnipotent” are clever catchwords for describing the Judeo-Christian God, but they are just descriptions, not logical predicates postulated by the Bible as axiomatic traits of God’s being. The Bible calls God “almighty” (I forget the Hebrew word), which may have been translated “omnipotent” in the Septuagint, but it clearly doesn’t mean “capable of performing any act describable by human language, however nonsensical.” It clearly means that God is “maxipotent,” that is, that he is the most powerful being in existence, possibly the most powerful being possible. Some passages imply or state that all lesser forces derive their power from his. The Hebrews (and to a lesser extent the authors of the Greek scriptures) weren’t writing philosophical treatises. For the most part, they were writing poetry. Whatever the Hebrew word was for “almighty,” it was close enough for them, without necessarily implying that God can (or can’t) create a rock so heavy he can’t lift it. Since words are defined through usage, not by–well…divine fiat, I think you could very well argue that “most powerful” is a more technically accurate translation of that word anyway. The Bible describes plenty of situations where his power appears limited, or at least inefficient.

Likewise for the other two. God is called all-knowing, and is described as knowing the hearts and hearing the thoughts of all people, but that has nothing to do with whether he can perfectly predict the future. He obviously knows more about the future than we do, but there are also times when he seems surprised and frustrated, particularly by humans. In parts of the Prophets he sounds like a frustrated parent who could really use a parenting-skills class. (“I punish you and I punish you, and you still rebel! Nothing works! [Sigh.] I guess I’d better punish you again. Maybe this time you’ll learn how much I love you.”)

Arguably, he knows everything that can be known, but if the future hasn’t happened yet (even for God) and isn’t predetermined then there’s no contradiction in saying that he can’t know it. Yelling at Christians, “But that’s not omniscience! You’re moving the goalposts!” is just silly.

Omni-benevolent is the least biblical of the three. We are told in the NT that “God is love,” but we are also given long lists throughout the Bible of people and things God hates. What exactly “God is love” means, or even can mean, is not at all clear, but it’s almost certainly best not to treat it as a rigorous philosophical definition, since that’s almost certainly not how it was meant.

Of course, the argument from evil doesn’t actually require that God be omnipotent, omniscient and omni-benevolent, that’s just its strongest form. But it works nearly as well against a God who’s only slightly more powerful, knowledgeable and nice than your average Joe.

I can agree with this. Omnipotence can be reduced to omniscience or omnibenevolence, so I don’t really get the idea of the “pick-two” from above.

I think this is a little disingenuous of a representation. By mentioning God asking questions, it seems you are trying to point out that it implies his ignorance, and thus, non-omniscience. I disagree that that is a necessary conclusion. Though I am not a parent myself, I often see parents ask kids questions to which they already know the answers because they want the child to choose to accept responsibility rather than just be confronted. That is, it’s a matter of choice.

Similar for the six-days thing. I think most Christians, or at least many, regard creation as allegorical. Assuming the absolute truth of evolution as we understand it today… how would one go about explaining that to people thousands of years ago? Particularly since they’re far less interested in HOW it works and more with WHO did it. I don’t think extracting limitations from that necessarily follows because, in my view, it isn’t the goal of the text and, even if it were, the limitations are cut short by the understanding of the audience.

I actually agree with this too. I think that, if God exists, he must be more powerful than anything we can imagine, afterall, he created the universe, and along with the power to create the universe, a number of other powers come along to be implied, but I don’t think omnipotence necessarily follows from that. However, for any practical purpose, I’m unsure how much difference it makes. But to me, that seems sort of like differentiating between infinity and Graham’s number from a practical, every-day perspective.

As for the problem of evil itself, as posed in the OP, I still don’t really understand how it’s an issue for anyone who believes in free will which, I think, most Christians do. In order to have a choice, we must have options, without options, it’s not a choice. Thus, in order to choose to do good, we must have non-good options, thus free will necessitates the existence of evil. Thus, the only way to remove evil is to remove free will, but then we are robbed of our ability to learn and grow. Thus, I don’t see it as inconsistent as all, particularly since I believe that is at least part of the reason why God created us.

No it can’t. they are logically contradictory.

Say a God is by nature both omnibenevolent and omnipotent. If he is not either, he is not God. However, omnibenevolence implies that God does not perform acts which make the world the best possible place to be. This limits his omnipotence, since he cannot do certain actions without losing omnibenevolence, and thus godhood. And sorry, the argument that God just doesn’t want to do certain things doesn’t work. I can’t flap my wings and fly, and arguing that I don’t want to doesn’t make this any less possible.

We’ve gone over the omnipotence versus omniscience argument before. I’d say that omnibenevolence and omniscience are not contradictory, and omniscience is required for omnibenevolence, otherwise how do you know for sure your actions will result in the best possible world?
ETA: I too am interested in where this is explicitly stated.

If you have a choice then your god doesn’t know what you’ll choose, so it’s not a god.

If your god knows what you’ll choose then you don’t have a choice even if you may claim it seems like a choice to you, which is also an absurdity.

You can’t have it both ways. You either have a god and you have no choice, or you have a choice and you have no god.

You do have a choice, of course, therefore there is no god.

It’s simple.

Please see my earlier post.

Also, Voyager, your argument is like saying that if you love your wife, you can’t choose to be nice to her, because if you really love her, it’s not a choice.

Maybe you need to read what you wrote.

If the god doesn’t know what will happen then the god is subject to the randomness or other laws of nature, therefore it’s not a god.

Circumstantial qualifications of gods, like the ones you describe, are even more irrational than claims of omniscience.

Hebrew- Shaddai (literally “Strong-Chested” or “Full-Breasted” as in full of milk)
also Sabaoth (“Of Armies”- as in God is Lord over the Armies, the Heavenly Host, the Powers of Creation)

I don’t have my Septuagint handy but Revelation in Ch 12 has Pantokrator (“Ruler over All”?) for Omnipotent.

No, free will necessitates the possibility of committing evil, not that it actually be committed. God could have made people wise and good enough to choose of their own free will not to commit evil, but he chose not to do so. That is the problem of evil, as I see it; not that it is possible but that it occurs, meaning God could have designed around it but chose not to. Perhaps he doesn’t have free will?

Firstly, “Non-good” is not quite the same as evil. Many of our actions are morally neutral. It’s not technically true that to have the option to do good one must have the option to do evil; we could have only good or neutral options.
After all, it’s not like my options aren’t hugely constrained in lots of other ways anyway.

Secondly, for any christians in this thread: how will it work in heaven? If we can be in a protected environment and yet free, why don’t we just start out that way?

Finally, it’s easy to think of ways to make the world less evil without affecting free will. Lose the natural disasters, provide more resources, make the body less vulnerable etc etc. All the stuff about the world being a test for mankind is just handwaving away the fact that it’s so sub-optimal.

I firmly dislike the omni-whatever-ent terminology, because it just lends itself to the sort of verbal paradox mentioned above. Rather, I prefer to describe God as self-limiting, i.e., that there is nothing beyond Him constraining Him. Because He is faithful to His word, He will do what He has promised to do. He constrains Himself; nothing else constrains Him.

On a couple of other points, I think that the Bible records, not an inconsistent God, but humanity’s evolving understanding of Him. The tribal god who defends the Iszraelites against the Amalekites whom He hates, eventually becomes the God who loves all mankind. (And of course there are going to be some instances of “the good guys are going to get their just desserts,and the bad guys are gonna get tortured eternally.”) And of course all this is conditioned on a presumption of the Christian God’s existence and general character.

As Alan Smithee said, these descriptions would probably have to be viewed as hyperbole to make any sort of sense. They are, to some extent, taken from gists given in the Bible, but nowhere in the Bible does it lay out technical abilities or inabilities of God. Once you add in the fact that the Bible contradicts itself on every other page, making any sort of hard claim becomes a bit silly.

Kinda hard to reconcile that with omnipotence or asking rhetorical questions. God has heard of something happening, and has to send angels down to have a look to confirm the story. An omnipotent God would already have known if the stories were true.

So either God is not omnipotent, or he was lying to Abraham. And of course the Bible claims that God does not lie.

People putting definitions to what a god can’t be or can’t do reminds me of when people say how the universe ought to act or that it doesn’t make sense so we must be missing something. Hey, no one asked your opinion. The universe, or an actual god if any exists, doesn’t really care what you think about it. It just* is*. The idea that it must be molded to our expectations or make any sense to us is the highest form of self flattery and human chauvinism.

Consider that fact that most of the universe is going to waste, at least as far as life is concerned. This suggests that God does not have the power to create life-supporting worlds but has to rely on randomness amid great numbers for a relative few to fall into place.

With evolution, it makes more sense that God would need to invent basic systems for living things–starting with the cell–and testing them out in an actual planetary environment before combining them to create more complex creatures, rather than effortlessly blinking them into existence.

Maybe the God of Man, Father of Jesus, wasn’t involved with the establishment of the basic laws of the universe but that this was a higher-level god that our God finds just as unfathomable as we find Him. In short, maybe God has a god. Maybe our God is in 4 dimensions while his god is in 5, and so on.

Maybe there’s one basic-level god for each inhabited planet. Maybe Jesus has brothers and sisters.

Are you wise and good enough to choose of your own free will not to drive your car through the neighborhood hitting every person you see like you’re playing Grand Theft Auto?