The Evangelical Universalist Forum

Contradictions Are Not Objects of Power or Knowledge

60 years ago, while attending the Winnipeg Bible Institute as a student, our theology professor made a reference to the question posed by atheists and non-believers in a vain attempt to disprove the omnipotence of God:

Can God create a stone so large that He cannot lift it?

So if the theist answers, “Yes,” then the non-theist responds, “Then there is something God is unable to do. He cannot lift that stone.”

But if the theist answers, “No,” then the non-theist responds, “Then there is something that God is unable to do. He cannot create such a stone…” The non-theist thus falsely concludes, “Therefore God is not omnipotent”.

How did our theology professor deal with this so-called “proof”? He said, “Contradictions are not objects of power…”

So one can confidently affirm that the omnipotent God cannot create such a stone, without destroying the truth that God is can do all things that are possible to do. But the “all things” do not include contradictions.

The recent arguments in the OT vs OT thread, suggesting that God can know the unknowable (that which free-will agents will choose) falls in much the same category. It is a clear contradiction to affirm that God knows that P will choose A at a future time T, and then at time T, it turns out that P instead chooses not A.

God is omniscient. He knows all things. But “all things” do not include the future actions of free-will agents.

So one can confidently affirm that the omniscient God cannot know in advance what a free-will agent will choose without destroying the truth that God knows all things that are possible to know. But “all things” do not include contradictions.

Contradictions are not objects of knowledge.

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Some discussions on this:

Quora: Can god make a rock so heavy that he couldn’t lift it?

Notice I have shared, some of my favorite sites:

  • Got Questions

  • Patheos

  • Quora

  • Wiki

I don’t remember it being said that “God knows that P will choose A at a future time T, and then at time T, it turns out that P instead chooses not A.”

I don’t remember it being said that what God knows is false.

I do remember it being said that a contingent proposition like “X will happen” does not mean that X must happen. It means simply that X will happen, as follows from God’s foreknowledge described in the syllogism below, which says that X will happen.

Premise 1: Necessarily, if God foreknows X, then X will happen.
Premise 2: God foreknows X.
Conclusion: Therefore, X will happen.

And X happens in agreement with God’s foreknowledge.

But since “X will happen” is a contingent proposition, it is possible that Y would have happened instead. But–and this is the part that Paidion seems to miss–if Y had happened instead, God would have foreknown that contingency and thus would have foreknown that Y will happen, as described in the syllogism below, which says that Y will happen.

Premise 1: Necessarily, if God foreknows Y, then Y will happen.
Premise 2: God foreknows Y.
Conclusion: Therefore, Y will happen.

And Y happens in agreement with God’s foreknowledge.

Thus, when X is foreknown to happen, X indeed happens, and when Y is foreknown to happen, Y indeed happens.

God never foreknows something happening that doesn’t happen.

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But if “X will happen” because God knows it will happen, then X must happen, and thus is not contingent. And if X refers to the choice of a free will agent, that choice cannot be known in advance. Therefore no one can know X before the free-will agent makes his choice.

Wrong. A contingent proposition is not a necessary one. A will is not a must. You still do not understand the modal fallacy.

A “will” simply says that in some situations (or possible worlds), the choice is X. A “must” says that in all situations (or in all possible worlds), the choice is X.

And from the premise “Necessarily, if God foreknows X, then X will happen,” followed by the premise “God foreknows X,” one cannot logically deduce “X must happen” anyway. All that follows logically is “X will happen.” So, the point is moot. It is simply not deductively proper to conclude “X must happen.”

So you believe that God can know X will happen at Time T, although X might not happen at Time T.

Semantics can be confusing, and we each appear to find the others’ language difficult. When you say foreknowing S will do X only means X will be chosen “in some situations,” it’s confusing.

When Paidion or I speak of God knowing X will be chosen, we are assuming God’s knowledge of that applies to only one specific future situation, not to multiple occasions where X will be correct in some of them, but also to others where Y will be the correct choice.

Thus in that particular situation which we mean to indicate, X must be the choice.
It can’t be anything else, lest it not be the X that God foreknew.

No, if God foreknows X will happen at time T, X will happen at time T.

But X, being contingent, might not have happened at time T in the first place. But if it did not happen at time T in the first place, then God would have foreknown that, too.

That is, what happens at time T, as a human choice, is still free, and God’s foreknowledge, caused by what happens at time T, is always correct.

Consequently, one can say that foreknowledge and free will are compatible.

I didn’t say that. I said this.

“A ‘will’ simply says that in some situations (or possible worlds), the choice is X. A ‘must’ says that in all situations (or in all possible worlds), the choice is X.”

That is, the statements I just quoted were made in that post to show how will and must are different. I wasn’t addressing any particular premise or conclusion in the syllogism at that time.

So now we have the human choice at time T causing God’s foreknowledge. That sounds like backwards causation—a future event causing an event in the past.

I’m confused. What location does “the first place” refer to.

God’s foreknowledge, being logically caused by future events, is something possible in the case of a being, like God, who can escape the limitations involved with the time dimension.

Now you are playing. It’s an idiom that means “to begin with.” Sorry, I don’t have time to play.

But it immediately followed Paidion’s syllogism: “If “X will happen” because God knows it will happen, then X must happen,” and presented as the reason for you declaring that syllogism to be “false.” If you clarify that this observation isn’t addressing the syllogism we are discussing, what is its’ relevance, and why is Paidion’s false?

Again, this is just more playing and trying really hard not to understand. I don’t have time for this kind of nonsense. You should know better.

Thank you. I was guessing that.

But if God knows everything even from the “beginning” (or as you mention, even before time begins), and part of his timeless all-knowingness is that “X will happen at time T,” when is this beginning or point at which X might not turn out to be what happened at time T?

Sorry, I know my deficits can be frustrating. I’m trying to understand how you see it.
My mom said, when God said brains, I thought He said trains, and said, I don’t need any. :wink:

@lancia “Interesting! If I may ask, what is the source of the quotation “cause to which every chain of causes must ultimately go back”? I’d like see the context of the quotation. I think it’s important to know whether such a statement applies to abstractions like logic.”

It is from the Encylopedia Britannica https://www.britannica.com/topic/first-cause

(I continue discussion here as it seems to have moved here)

Thanks. I have seen this argument used for explaining the existence of the world (universe) and material entities in it, as shown below. All causation goes back to a causeless cause. i.e., God. If it did not go back to a causeless cause, then the result would be an infinite regress of causes, something that I’ve read is impossible.

God > primordial universe > world > life > humans > person A

But I have never seen it used to explain abstractions like logical causation. To the contrary, I have heard it said that abstractions like mathematically necessary things exist independently of God. If abstractions like mathematical things can exist independently of God, then maybe abstractions like logical relations can as well.

Using the argument to explain the logical causation of foreknowledge of free event X, I guess, would look like this.

God > > > > > person A > free choice X by person A > God’s knowledge of free choice X by person A

So, if this is the way it is, though God is the first cause for the existence of the universe, the world, and person A who makes free choice X that God then foreknows, I don’t see that anything necessarily changes with respect to the logic of God’s having foreknowledge of the particular event X freely done by person A being caused by that very act X being freely done by person A. It still seems that God’s foreknowledge of person A freely doing X is caused, within the long chain of causes, by person A freely doing X.

But, all of this is way beyond my knowledge of philosophy. It is a very interesting question you raise, though.

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To add to my last post, which outlines the logical causation of God’s knowledge of person A doing event X, let me outline what the temporal (as we experience the temporal dimension) causation chain would look like.

God and His foreknowledge of all events, including free choice X by person A > > > > > person A > free choice X by person A.

So, to repeat, though God’s foreknowledge temporally (as we experience the temporal dimension) precedes person A freely doing event X (as follows if God omnisciently foreknows that person A will freely do event X), person A freely doing event X logically precedes God’s foreknowledge of person A freely doing event X.