Monday, January 31, 2011

Omnipotence and Omniscience

Stefan Molyneux
From an essay entitled, "Against the Gods", by Stefen Molyneux we have the following quote:
...omniscience cannot coexist with omnipotence, since if a god knows what will happen tomorrow, said god will be unable to change it without invalidating its knowledge. If this god retains the power to change what will happen tomorrow, then it cannot know with exact certainty what will happen tomorrow.
What are your thoughts?


klatu said...

Endless God discussion and debate, whether over omnipotence, omniscience or other characteristics which tradition have offered as the 'classical' description of God are only contentious because monotheistic religion has nothing to show for it nor any means of demonstrating such potential. That can mean one of three things. There is no God, that religion has nothing to do with that possibility [all religion is false] or that there may be a God but has 'yet' to begin an intervention [or judgment] into the natural world suggested by the myth or record of the incarnation.

Yet this intellectual logjam may about to be blown right out of the water and 'the' discussion forced to a conclusion! For what science, religion, philosophy, theology, psychology, Hawkins or Dawkins thought impossible has happened. History now has it's first fully demonstrable proof for faith. And coming from outside all existing theologies, clearly has 'tradition' in the cross hairs. To test or not to test, that is the question?

While the religious won't be happy looking into their abyss, what of those 'cynics' who have claimed to be of an Enlightenment mind? For if they are unable to appreciate this change in the historical faith paradigm, to one that conforms precisely to a criteria subject to evidence and confirmation, then their own 'claim' to rationality is no more nor better then those theological illusions they find so abhorrent.

The tragedy for humanity will be if religion, skepticism and atheism have all so discredited the very idea of God for us to imagine, discover and experience just how great this potential is? More info at

justsomename said...

An omniscient god who doesn't have the cognitive capacity to map out multiple contingencies?
I don't find that compelling. Am I missing something?

Skeptigirl said...

I agree with justsomename, who says the flow of time is an immutable river and not a branching out effect with no one future being the only one. I have always beleaved that because we have free will that we decide which path things will take down the web of possibilities. After all, what is the point of having free will if there is only one possible route our lives will take. It would negate the whole concept.

E said...

On classical theism God, being eternal, doesn't properly speaking *foreknow* anything. Also, omnipotence falls short. It's not that God has all powers - and all of them to the max - in the sense that if we find one power God doesn't (or couldn't) have then we've uncovered something interesting, it's that God is power itself.

Kane Augustus said...

Klatu: Thank you for your insightful comments. I will be thinking about them over the next couple of days. I'll attempt to get back to you then.

JSN: What Molyneux seems to be conveying is that God cannot be both omniscient and omnipotent simultaneously because such qualities would cancel each other out. Molyneux is not arguing against omniscience on its own, as a singular characteristic. He is arguing against the co-existence of omniscience and omnipotence in the same being (in this case, God). Does that change your thoughts on the subject?

SkeptiGirl: Just like JSN, I think you are concentrating on only God's omniscience and not seeing the combination Molyneux is putting forth: omniscience and omnipotence cause a contradictory circumstance when combined in the same being, or used as a description of the qualities of a singular being.

Ed: I understand what you are saying, and it seems like you are relying on the liberal theology of people like Tillich to render your definition of God's qualities (e.g., "God is power itself"). My question there, however, is that what does that definition do for us other than make God completely nebulous and incomprehensible? If God is truly relational, shouldn't we be able to make some rational definitions that don't simply regress the question of his actuality even more?

justsomename said...

Oh! I just got it. that's funny

This argument could have been better explained as a comic strip.

justsomename said...

It's simple... Maybe if He decides to change what happens tomorrow, He also uses his power to change what He thought yesterday in order to keep it correct.

justsomename said...

The original argument also assumes that God is subject to time as we experience it.
This is where we would naturally start discussing quantum physics and the relationships of dimensions within our reality... except that I don't know enough to carry a discussion on that topic.

E said...

No, not liberal theology, but good ol' classical theism a la Aquinas.

God is not merely one more BEING among beings--not even the biggest and badest BEING among beings that we can imagine.

Being is not a neutral space into which God, as if some sort of super being, can be placed alongside the rest of us. None of us is, expect insofar as we are graciously welcomed into God's existence.

Given what we know about the metaphysical necessity of a pure act of existence, anything else we might want to call "God" can only be a pretender to throne, so to speak.

E said...

Interestingly, this fellow may well be doing "the Lord's work" (so to speak): making a mockery of false gods and tearing down idols.