Joseph A. Sabella
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“Disproving Various Incoherent Gods doesn’t mean a Coherent God Can’t Exist.”
By Joseph A. Sabella
Theodore M. Drange in his article Incompatible-Properties Arguments: A Survey (1998) uses the incompatibilities or incoherence found in the divine properties usually attributed to God, to logically argue against the existence of God. The divine properties Mr. Drange focuses on are:
(a) Perfect (g) Personal
(b) Immutable (h) Free
(c) Transcendent (i) All-loving
(d) Nonphysical (j) All-just
(e) Omniscient (k) All-merciful
(f) Omnipresent (l) The creator of the universe
He considers pairs of properties from the above list and for each pair, he constructs an incompatible-properties argument for God’s nonexistence. An example of one of Mr. Drange’s arguments is given below:
The Perfection vs. Creation Argument
Consider the pair (a) & (l), which takes God to be perfect and also to be the creator of the universe. It seems that those properties might be shown to be incompatible in two different ways. The first way is as follows:
1. If God exists, then he (Following tradition, and for simplicity, Mr. Drange and myself use the male personal pronoun
for God. My apologies to anyone who finds that linguistic practice offensive.) is perfect.
2. If God exists, then he is the creator of the universe.
3. A perfect being can have no needs or wants.
4. If any being created the universe, then he must have had some need or want.
5. Therefore, it is impossible for a perfect being to be the creator of the universe (from 3 and 4).
6. Hence, it is impossible for God to exist (from 1, 2, and 5).
In a manner similar to the example given above, Mr. Drange analyzes the following pairs of divine properties for incompatibility:
1. Perfection-vs. -Creation 6. Transcendence-vs.-Personhood
2. Immutability-vs.-Creation 7. Nonphysical-vs.-Personhood,
In each case he logically shows their incompatibility and thus by inference proves that the ideas about a being with these properties (God) are internally incoherent and therefore could not exist. The cruxes of Mr. Drange’s arguments are all based on the way he defines the various divine properties. Defined in a certain way, from a certain point of view these properties are going to be incompatible or incoherent, thereby “proving” that the ideas about a being with these properties (God) could not logically exist. Define the various divine properties from a different point of view, give them a different meaning, and they become compatible, converge, or coherent, thereby “proving” that the ideas about a being with these properties (God) could logically exist. Mr. Drange himself states towards the end of his article, “In a sense, it is all a matter of semantics, for the issue of whether or not certain property ascriptions conflict with certain other property ascriptions depends very much on what exactly they mean. Theists could defend against the arguments by denying that the property terms in question mean what the proponents of the arguments claim they mean. Often such denials lead to still other difficulties for the theist. A full presentation and defense of incompatible-properties arguments should explore such implications and fully pursue the many issues, whether semantical or not.”
Mr. Drange is not really proving that God doesn’t exist, but he is proving that the ideas about a God with divine properties as he defined them could not logically exist. In this I have to agree with him 100%. The ideas about a being with divine properties as defined in his arguments can not logically exist. However that doesn’t mean the ideas about a being with the same divine properties defined in a different way couldn’t logically exist. In this paper I do not seek to prove whether God exists or not, because I don’t believe that’s possible. What I do seek to do is:
- 1. Define the same divine properties Mr. Drange used in his arguments so that they are:
- a. Scientifically Coherent, i.e., consistent with the latest scientific thoughts in areas such as, physics, cosmology, and near-death experiences.
- b. Morally Coherent, i.e., consistent with giving meaning and purpose to human pleasure, suffering, life, and death.
- c. Internally Coherent, i.e., able to logically exist simultaneously within a divine being
- 2. Use these definitions to rebut Mr. Drange’s arguments and provide a case for the logical existence of the idea of a Coherent God.
- 3. State some conclusions and implications about the idea of God.
- A) Explores scientific and moral coherency and summarizes its main points.
- B) Redefines the same twelve divine properties used in Mr. Drange’s arguments, in light of scientific and moral coherency.
- C) Concludes with some implications about the idea of God.
Part 1A – Exploring Scientific & Moral Coherence
A Coherent God must be able to withstand the bright lights of science and logic. He cannot hide behind a shroud of mysticism, old conceptions, and illogical properties. Science is the logical and persistent search for truth about the nature of our reality. If God is truly a factor in that reality, then His divine properties have to be consistent with and causal to the latest scientific theories. In this scientific age, a God that is not integrated into the scientific language of our time becomes a relic of the past and loses His ability to reach the people who need Him the most. To understand the divine properties of a Coherent God in this context, my journey took me into the worlds of physics, cosmology, and near-death research.
If God exists, and He is the creator of the universe, it becomes very important to define what is meant by universe. An inaccurate or outdated definition of the universe will incorrectly reflect on the nature of its creator. The more accurately we can define the universe the closer we get to a truer idea of God.
When people hear the word “universe” they frequently think of it meaning the whole of creation, i.e., the earth, planets, stars, and galaxies. Physicists refer to our “universe” as the space-time dimension. They call it the space-time dimension because it is measured in space by length, width, height, and in time by seconds, minutes, hours. The latest scientific theories and data indicate that our universe, the space-time dimension, is not the whole of creation. There’s more to it and most of it is invisible.
String Theory is science’s most recent attempt to explain our whole universe. It seeks to combine Einstein’s Theories of Relativity which governs the macroscopic universe (our everyday world, the planets, stars, etc.) and Quantum Theory which governs the microscopic world (atoms, neutrons, electrons, subatomic particles, etc.) String Theory is new and no one claims to understand all of it, though, it does seem to combine Relativity and Quantum Theory very nicely. There is, however, a price for this nice fit. String Theory requires at least 10 or 11 other dimensions beyond our space-time dimension.
String Theory says that in order for our space-time dimension to be the way it is, there must be other dimensions that are currently undetectable by the best measuring devices of today. In other words these dimensions are invisible to us. We suspect they are there but we can’t see or measure them. In fact current astrophysicists lend support to this idea by reporting that the vast “universe” science can see and measure may comprise no more than 5% of the whole universe. The rest of creation is thought to be 20-30% dark matter (matter that is currently undetectable) and 60-80% dark energy (energy that is currently undetectable).
In light of the current scientific thought that:
- 1. The whole of creation seems to consist of an uncertain number of dimensions.
- 2. Most of these dimensions are invisible and undetectable.
- 3. Our “universe,” the space-time dimension, is but one of these dimensions.
it then seems more accurate to refer to the whole of creation as “multidimensional reality” rather than the universe. A person might say, “I’ll grant you the term “multidimensional” but why use the term “reality” and give up the term universe. Couldn’t it be multidimensional universe?” They would have a good point but please bear with me and I hope you’ll see why reality is a much more accurate description of what’s going on.
To get a sense of what a multidimensional reality might mean I’d like to use the different states of water as an analogy. Water can exist in three states; ice, liquid, and vapor. These three states could be called the three dimensions of water. Imagine that in each dimension there were living beings composed of ice, liquid, and vapor. The ice beings would have a very different view of reality than the liquid or vapor beings. To ice beings, reality would be solid, hard and very ordered. They could not imagine the flow, mutability, and flexibility of the liquid beings. Nor could they imagine the dimension of the vapor beings; a reality where beings have a ton of energy and are so small that they can fly all over space. Each of these beings would have different realities because of the dimension they lived in.
In this analogy the ice, liquid, and vapor beings are unidimensional beings, that is, they are living in one dimension. The ice being is living in the ice dimension, the liquid being in the liquid dimension, and the vapor being in the vapor dimension. However, water, the essence of all these beings is in all three dimensions; ice, liquid, and vapor. Therefore water would be called a multidimensional being, i.e., a being living simultaneously in more than one dimension.
Just as ice, liquid and vapor are various dimensions of the same multidimensional being, water; I believe our “universe,” the space-time dimension, and the other dimensions predicted by String Theory are various dimensions of the same multidimensional being, God. Water at its most essential level is composed of two elements, hydrogen and oxygen. These elements combine as H2O and allow water to have its three dimensions of existence and three different realities. I believe God, like water, has essential elements or properties. Some of these essential properties are: eternal and infinite vital energy, unconditional love, creative intelligence, and receptivity. I believe these essential elements combine, in a way analogous to water, and allow God, the multidimensional being, to create and be in, an infinite variety of dimensions causing an infinite variety of realities. Thus the term multidimensional reality seems more accurate than universe when referring to the whole of creation.
Death is a universal experience in this dimension and a Scientifically Coherent God must be presented in terms consistent with the latest research on this subject. Death is usually considered under the realm of religion, metaphysics, or philosophy, not science. However, for over two decades Mr. Kevin Williams has been gathering the latest research and scientific evidence on death and near-death. His website is the result of that work. His conclusions and the conclusions of other scientists (some of whom had the near-death experience, described below) are that near-death phenomena are real. The following information is taken from the website, near-death.com created by Mr. Williams.
“The person whose best-selling book Life After Life first focused public attention in 1975 on the near-death experience and what it is telling the medical profession is Dr. Raymond A. Moody (www.lifeafterlife.com). Dr. Moody recorded and compared the experiences of 150 persons who died, or almost died, and then recovered. His research describes the results of decades of inquiry into the near-death experience. He outlines nine elements that generally occur during the near-death experience.
- A strange sound. A buzzing or ringing noise, while having a sense of being dead.
- Peace and painlessness. While people are dying, they may be in intense pain, but as soon as they leave the body the pain vanishes and they experience peace.
- Out-of-body experience. The dying often have the sensation of rising up and floating above their own body while surrounded by a medical team and watching it down below, feeling comfortable. They experience the feeling of being in a spiritual body that looks like a sort of living energy field.
- The tunnel experience. The next experience is that of being drawn into darkness through a tunnel, at an extremely high speed, until reaching a realm of radiant golden-white light.
- Rising rapidly into the heavens. Instead of a tunnel, some people report rising suddenly into the heavens and seeing the earth and the celestial sphere as they would be seen by astronauts in space.
- People of light. Once on the other side of the tunnel, or after they have risen into the heavens, the dying meet people who glow with an inner-light. Often they find that friends and relatives who have already died are there to greet them.
- The being of light. After meeting the people of light, the dying often meet a powerful spiritual being whom some have called God, Jesus, or an angel. Also, although they sometimes report feeling scared, they do not sense that they were on the way to hell or that they fell into it.
- The life review. The being of light presents the dying with a panoramic review of everything they have done. In particular, they relive every act they have ever done to other people and come away feeling that love is the most important thing in life.
- Reluctance to return. The being of light sometimes tells the dying that they must return to life. Other times, they are given a choice of staying or returning. In either case, they are reluctant to return. The people who choose to return do so only because of loved ones they do not wish to leave behind.”
Just as there is debate about the validity of any scientific theory or research there is also debate and alternative explanations given for the near-death experience. Mr. Williams’ website, in fairness, does present opposing views and I leave it to the reader to come to a personal decision on this matter. However, because of my own experiences and the preponderance of evidence presented on Mr. Williams’ website and from other places, I consider the near-death experience a fact and draw the following points from his research:
- A. Death brings us to another dimension, thus bringing further evidence to the multidimensional nature of reality.
- B. Death is a time for renewing and healing relationships with deceased loved ones.
- C. Death is not the end of existence, but a time and place of learning about life from higher spiritual beings.
- D. Death is temporary. After a person learns what they need to learn from death, they often return to life in this dimension.
These points about death are important because, besides validating multidimensionality, they will also help clarify the moral issues of suffering and adversity in human life.
A Coherent God must be morally as well as scientifically coherent. A being is morally coherent when he consistently acts for his benefit and the benefit of others. If a Morally Coherent God exists, and is the creator of beings, He must act in ways that are beneficial to them. He must not cause them any suffering. He is required to protect them from unnecessary suffering, i.e., meaningless suffering and He must allow them the suffering due to inexperience that is necessary for their growth and development, i.e., meaningful suffering.
A morally coherent being is much the same as unconditionally loving parents. Parents create beings, children. Unconditionally loving parents will act in ways that are beneficial to their children, such as, providing them with food, clothing and shelter, and helping them to develop early skills, like walking and talking. They will do their best not to cause their children any suffering, by not being abusive or neglectful, and they will do their best to protect them from any suffering that is preventable, like being burned or getting hit by a car. It is part of an unconditionally loving parent’s job is to stand by and allow the suffering due to inexperience that is necessary for a child’s growth and development like, learning to walk, or dealing with bullies for the first time.
As the child grows into adolescence, unconditionally loving parents may not like the risks, dangers, and separation the teenager chooses. However, they will understand that their teenager’s demand for more freedom is fueled by the desire to use more of their developing human potential. The unconditionally loving parents may be concerned and frustrated but they will never stop loving their teenager and they will never abuse or neglect him. They will continue to lovingly communicate to him their concerns and offer constructive suggestions. They trust he will ultimately get past this dangerous and necessary phase and blossom into a mature adult, i.e., a person who can set his own limits and further develop their talents.
But if this type of morally coherent unconditionally loving God truly existed how could our universe/dimension be filled with so much evil, cruelty, oppression, injustice, adversity and endless amounts of seemingly meaningless suffering and death? The idea of an unconditionally loving God seems incompatible with the reality of human suffering on earth. The only way for the idea of a Morally Coherent God to make sense would be if all the evil, cruelty, oppression, injustice, adversity, disease, and endless amounts of seemingly meaningless suffering and death we’re not meaningless but had a very significant purpose and meaning. That purpose and meaning would have to be far greater than the suffering endured, in order for God to remain morally coherent. But what purpose could ever justify wars, concentration camps, sexual abuse, starvation, torture, and disease? Each of these is a profoundly painful and devastating experience for humans. How could a morally coherent God inflict these on his children? I believe the simple answer is, He doesn’t.
Just as the unconditionally loving parents, described above, don’t inflict suffering on their teenager, the morally Coherent God does not inflict suffering on His offspring. The teenager’s suffering is a natural consequence of having more human freedom with little understanding and experience in how to wisely use that freedom. The same is true for human suffering. Human suffering is the natural consequence of having great spiritual powers with little understanding and experience in how to wisely deal with those powers. What great spiritual powers am I talking about? Let me explain.
If a Morally Coherent God exists and we are his spiritual offspring, created in His image (“1:26 And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness…1:27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. 1:28 And God blessed them…”), then each of us has the potential spiritual powers of God. As the section on near-death research indicates, life in our dimension is about learning how to use our spiritual powers wisely. In this process great damage can happen to our physical self and the physical self of our loved ones. However, as near-death research points out, our physical self and the physical self of our loved ones are merely the vehicles necessary for them and us to learn our spiritual lessons in this dimension, our space-time dimension. Our physical or material self is not who we ultimately are. Our real selves are eternal spiritual beings. As Dr. Wayne W. Dyer says, “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.”
Even though the suffering we experience in this dimension can be excruciatingly painful it can be profoundly meaningful. Suffering is an internal experience. It is a painful feeling. Those who are suffering and those who survive suffering have two choices. They can be closed to it by denying the pain, covering the pain with addictions or other forms of escapism, developing a bitterness about having pain, or using the feeling of pain as a support for a preexisting negativity about life, or they can be open to their suffering by feeling it and trying to find the spiritual meanings that are buried and entangled in those painful sensations. A person who remains closed to their suffering resists looking among the inner bramble of their thorny sensations. They delay finding the roses of spiritual meaning hidden deep within their pain. Because of this delay, they continue to suffer and hold on to shallow meanings about themselves, others, or life. A person who remains open to their suffering will learn spiritual lessons from it and gain a deeper and more compassionate understanding of themselves, others, and the purposes of life.
Gordon W. Allport in the preface he wrote for Viktor E. Frankl’s book Man’s Search for Meaning, says, “…to live is to suffer, to survive is to find meaning in the suffering. If there is a purpose in life at all, there must be a purpose in suffering and dying. But no man can tell another what that purpose is. Each must find out for himself, and must accept the responsibility that his answer prescribes. If he succeeds he will continue to grow in spite of all indignities. Frankl is fond of quoting Nietzsche, “He who has a why to live can bear with almost any how.” 
As stated earlier, this paper is not going to prove the existence of a Scientific and Morally Coherent God but it does seek to prove that such an idea can logically exist. Based on the latest science in physics, cosmology, and near-death research described earlier in the paper, the ideas of a Scientifically and Morally Coherent God can be summarized as follows:
- 1. He is an eternal, unconditionally loving, multidimensional being with vast creative powers who is able to produce or create offspring or children.
- 2. These spiritual children have the potential to develop all the spiritual powers of their creator as they grow from spiritual childhood, through adolescence and into spiritual maturity.
- 3. As part of this developmental process the spiritual adolescent enters this dimension and becomes human.
- 4. Spiritual Adolescents, by definition, are inexperienced in the use of their spiritual powers and because of this they cause and experience great physical, emotional, and spiritual suffering, in this dimension.
- 5. When their physical bodies die the spiritual adolescents return to a spiritual dimension where they review their life and learn from it.
- 6. The spiritual adolescent is then free to return to this dimension and take another physical life that will further their development to spiritual maturity.
As stated in the beginning of the article I don’t believe Mr. Drange proved that God doesn’t exist nor do I believe that I prove in Part 2 that He does exist. What Mr. Drange did achieve was to prove that the idea of God defined in a certain way could not logically exist and I believe in Part 2, I prove that the idea of God defined in a certain way could logically exist. We may never know whether God truly exists and if He does what His divine properties really are. However, what we can know is our ideas of God, and our ideas of God may have equal or greater importance to our life than whether He really exists.
How a person thinks about God indirectly defines how that person sees himself and influences how that person may treat others. If a person’s idea of God is that God is a vindictive being, then that person may have an easier time seeing themselves as a victim or perhaps it will be used if justifying the victimization of others. If God is viewed as apathetic or indifferent than it makes it easier to feel alone, abandoned and in turn do the same to others. A whimsical God that loves one minute and punishes the next without rhyme or reason could leave a person perpetually on guard and may justify their own inconsistent treatment of others. A person who doesn’t believe in God and believes they are the a random accident of some explosion that took place 14 billion years ago (the Big Bang) could have a hard time finding much meaning or purpose in their life. And lastly people who believe they are the son or daughter of an unconditionally loving God may experience themselves as fully loved people and perhaps treat others in a similar manner.
Whether God really exists or not is a big question. However, the practical question is what are the ideas you have about God and how strongly do you believe in them? It is those ideas and beliefs that will consciously and unconsciously determine a lot of your experience in this dimension; possibly more than a God that may or may not exist.
An Internally Coherent God has divine properties that logically can exist simultaneously within a divine being. Mr. Drange in his article Incompatible-Properties Arguments: A Survey (1998) proves that the divine properties of God, as he defined them, logically could not exist simultaneously within a being, thus making the idea of God internally incoherent. It was this article that inspired me to search for coherent definitions of God’s divine properties found in Section 1B of this article.
In the arguments below, these coherent definitions of God’s divine properties are used to rebut Mr. Drange’s arguments and provide a case for the logical existence of the idea of a Coherent God. For the readers convenience I have reprinted Mr. Drange’s 11 arguments against the idea of God and parallel to them I have placed my arguments for the idea of a Coherent God. Also after his commentaries I have added my own commentaries to further explain the logic and reasoning behind my premises.
Premise 3 might be challenged on the grounds that a perfect being, full of love, could desire to share his love with others. Thus, a perfect being could have a want, which would make premise 3 false. I suppose the only problem with this is that if a being wants something that he does not have, then he cannot be perfect, for he would be in a certain way incomplete. Whether or not this adequately defends premise 3 is hard to say. There is a certain unclarity, and perhaps subjectivity, in the idea of “perfection” which poses an obstacle to any sort of rigorous reasoning about the concept.
Premise 4 might also be challenged. Perhaps God created the universe accidentally. For example, he “slipped and fell,” thereby creating a mess, which turned out to be our universe. In that case, God would not have had any need or want in creating the universe, and premise 4 would be false. There are difficulties with this, however. First, almost every theist who takes God to have created the universe takes it to have been done deliberately, not accidentally. And second, if the creation were accidental, then that in itself would imply that God is imperfect (since perfect beings do not have accidents), and that would be another basis for the Perfection-vs.-creation Argument. Thus, this sort of challenge to premise 4 itself runs into problems.
In his Premise 1, Mr. Drange posits that God is perfect. He really doesn’t define what he means by perfection until Premise 3 where he posits that a perfect being can have no needs or wants. In my Premise 1, I suggest that God is perfect in the use of His great powers. I define perfection as the perfect use of great powers and see God endowed with great powers. While Mr. Drange makes no mention of God’s powers, I believe they are an essential component in any discussion of God’s Any great being has great powers. A perfect being, however, would use his great powers perfectly. But what does it mean to use great power perfectly? How could a being use their great powers perfectly? If a being used their great powers to help others that might be considered a perfect use of power; but what about the being himself? Wouldn’t it really be perfect if that being could simultaneously use his great powers to help other beings and himself? That truly would be a perfect use of power; but how could a being do this? How could a being help another and at the same time help themselves? One possible way would be if that being had a need or a want to help other beings. If the being had a need or want to help other beings then, when they did help others, they would also be satisfying their or need or want to do this. Therefore, one way for a being with great powers to be perfect in his use of those powers, would be if he had a need and a want to help other beings. I state that in my Premise 3 as, A perfect being needs or wants to use his great powers to help other beings.
I have shown that a perfect being with great powers, must have needs or wants in order to be perfect; and specifically those needs and wants must be to help other beings. In his commentary Mr. Drange states that if a perfect being did have a need or a want this would mean he was incomplete and therefore not perfect. I don’t believe this is necessarily true. If the being was always satisfying his need or want then he would always be completing himself. As discussed above, one perfect use of power would be for a being to simultaneously use their power to help others and themselves. Given those conditions, I maintain that this being’s need or want is always satisfied and there would never be incompleteness in this being, only a persistent state of satisfaction.
In his Premise 2, Mr. Drange posits that God is the creator of the universe. He doesn’t define the universe but I assume he means the whole of creation as commonly described, i.e., all the creatures of the earth, the earth itself, planets, stars, and the galaxies. In my Premise 2, I suggest that God is the creator of a multidimensional reality and that our “universe” is but one dimension in that reality. I imply that the whole of creation is more than our “universe.” To understand what I mean by multidimensional reality and why our “universe” is not the whole of creation, please refer back to Part 1 of this article, to the section titled, Universe vs. Multidimensional Reality.
In his Premise 4, Mr. Drange states that if any being created the universe, then he must have had a need or want. Combine that with his Premise 3, that any being who has a need or a want is not perfect, it then becomes logically impossible for a being to have created the universe and be perfect. Ultimately leading to the conclusion that a God, simultaneously having these properties as defined by Mr. Drange, can not exist.
My Premise 4 is similar to Mr. Drange’s. It states, “If any being created the multi-dimensional reality then he must have had some need or want. However, combine that with my Premise 3, a perfect being needs and wants and wants to use His great powers to help other beings, and we reach a vastly different conclusion. It becomes logically possible for a being with wants and needs to create the multidimensional reality and be perfect. Leading to the conclusion that a God simultaneously having these properties can exist.
The usual reply to this line of thought is that whatever imperfections the universe may contain, they are the fault of mankind, not God. Thus, the universe was indeed perfect when God first created it, but it later became imperfect because of the actions of humans. This could be taken as an attack on the argument’s premise 3, construed to imply that what is perfect must remain so indefinitely. I shall not pursue the many twists and turns that this issue might take. It is essentially the same as what is called the “Deductive Argument from Evil,” which is a topic beyond the scope of the present survey. Let us instead move on to a new argument.
I agree with Mr. Drange that whatever imperfections the universe may contain and whose fault they are, is an issue that takes many twists and turns. Premises 1 & 2 have been fully discussed in my Commentary 1.1 – Perfection vs. Creation and in the section Universe vs. Multidimensional Reality. Please refer back to them. In Premise 3, Mr. Drange states, “If a being is perfect, then whatever he creates must be perfect.” While I state, “If a being is perfect, then how he creates must be perfect. Mr. Drange focuses perfection on outcomes or products, while I focus perfection on process. An argument can be made for either. How could a perfect product not emerge from a perfect process and vice versa, how could a perfect process not produce a perfect product? However when we get to Premise 4 this distinction becomes essential.
In Premise 4, Mr. Drange states, “But the universe is not perfect.” He doesn’t specify why he comes to that conclusion. However, if he sees the universe as a finished product or a final outcome (as his Premise 3 would indicate) he would naturally come to that conclusion. In this “universe,” the space-time dimension, evil, cruelty, oppression, injustice, and adversity are in abundance. Everyday and everywhere in this world pain and suffering are part of the fabric of daily life. If this were it, if this suffering was the end product, the final outcome then I’d have to agree with Mr. Drange. This universe is not perfect.
However suffering is not the end, it is an integral part of our growth as spiritual beings. For more on this please refer back to Part 1 of this article, to the section titled Morally Coherent God.
In my Premise 4, I state, The entire multi-dimensional reality is created perfectly, including our space-time dimension. I don’t believe adversity, evil or suffering makes our reality imperfect. It makes it difficult and sometimes excruciatingly painful, but not imperfect. Our space-time dimension would be imperfect if there were no meaning or learning to be had from our suffering. As indicated in the Part 1 in the sections Near-Death Experiences, and Morally Coherent God, adversity and suffering are meant to awaken us to spiritual ignorance and return us to our spiritual heritage. This can be a long and painful journey but so is the time we spend in adolescence. Ultimately we mature and become adults. The same is true for our spiritual journey. We need to learn from our adversity and ultimately over time we will come into spiritual maturity.
To recap, Mr. Drange states, what a perfect being creates must be perfect. Our universe is not perfect. Hence, a perfect being can not be the creator of our universe. Therefore God doesn’t exist. I take the position, how a perfect being creates must be perfect. How the multidimensional reality is created is perfect. Hence, a perfect being can be the creator of a multidimensional reality. Therefore God exists. Mr. Drange said there were many twists and turns in this argument and he was correct. I hope you enjoyed the trip.
 Premise 3 might be challenged on the grounds that the loss of an intention through the satisfaction of it is not a genuine change in a being. If a man wants something, X, and then obtains it, he has not thereby changed his attitude towards X. It is not that he once had a pro-attitude towards X but now he has a con-attitude towards it. So long as he is satisfied with X, his attitude remains unchanged. This may very well be true, but why claim that the only genuine change there can be in a being is a change in attitude? Why not allow that there can be other sorts of genuine change, and one of them is the loss of an intention through the satisfaction of it? Until some clear answer to this question is given, premise 3 seems to have some merit.
Premise 4 might be attacked in at least two different ways. It has been claimed that both the concept of “prior to the existence of the universe” and the concept of “God existing within time” are bogus. Time is a part or aspect of the universe itself and so there cannot be a time “before the universe.” And God is a timeless being, so the idea of God having a certain property at one time but lacking it at a later time is misguided. Since God is not within time, he cannot have properties at particular times.
My response to both objections is that creation is a temporal concept. This is built into the very definition of “create” as “to cause to come into being.” X cannot cause Y to come into being unless X existed temporally prior to Y. Thus, if indeed there was no time prior to the existence of the universe, then it is logically impossible for the universe to have been created. In that case, there could not possibly be a creator of the universe. And, furthermore, if indeed God does not exist within time, then he could not have been the creator of the universe, because, by the very concept of creation, if the universe was created at all, then its creator must have existed temporally prior to it. So if God, being timeless, did not exist temporally prior to anything, then God cannot have been the creator of the universe.
There is another objection to premise 4 which is similar to one we considered in relation to argument 1. It is that 4 would be false if the universe were created unintentionally. Again, it should be mentioned that people who believe that the universe was created also believe that it was created intentionally. But I would like to point out another possible response here. In place of the concept of intention, it would be possible to appeal to some other concept in the construction of argument 2. One candidate for that would be the concept of performing an action. In order for someone to create something, even if it is done unintentionally, the creator must perform an action, and that action must take time. Thus there must be a time during which a creator is performing a certain action and a later time (after the action has been performed) during which he is no longer performing that action. It could be argued that this, too, represents a change in the being who is performing the action. Thus, this would be another reason for maintaining that an immutable being cannot create anything (whether intentionally or not).
In Premise 1, Mr. Drange suggests a God that is totally immutable. I suggest that God is not totally immutable, instead He is a God with mutable and immutable motivations. One of God’s mutable motivations could be to create different beings. One of God’s immutable motivations could be to unconditionally love the different beings He creates. Therefore it’s possible for God to have mutable and immutable motivations.
In Premise 2, Mr. Drange suggests a God that is creator of the universe while I suggest a God that is the creator of a multidimensional reality and that our “universe” is but one dimension in that reality. For more on multidimensional please refer back to Part 1 of this article, to the section titled Universe vs. Multidimensional Reality.
In Premise 3, I indicate that there is a difference between a totally immutable being and a being with an immutable intention.
I disagree with Mr. Drange’s Premise 4 on the grounds that he assumes that “any being” will lose the intention to create something once he is done creating it. As my Premise 4 indicates this may be true of some, but not all beings. Mr. Drange’s assumption is most definitely true of human beings, however, I don’t believe it’s true of God.
I believe that if God has an intention to create something God’s intention to create it remains with the creation. This is necessary because things exist only because of God’s intention remains with them. If God’s intention on a creation stops, then that creation ceases to exist. Creations only exist because God’s intention remains with them before, during, and after their creation.
In our time-space dimension this principle is illustrated by the conservation of matter and energy. Once something is created, it never ceases to exist. It just keeps changing form and function as it becomes fodder for the next round of creativity. Since it is possible for some being with an immutable intention to create things and have his intention remain with them even after they’ve been created. It is then logically possible for God to exist.
 The usual place at which this argument is attacked is its premise 4. It is claimed that a timeless being can know everything there is to know without knowing propositions about the past and future. Consider the following two propositions as examples:
A. The origin of the planet earth is in the past.
B. The end (or destruction) of the planet earth is in the future.
The claim is that a timeless being need not know propositions A and B in order to know everything there is to know, because such a being could know the exact dates of both the origin and the end of the earth and that would suffice for complete knowledge. That is, A and B would be “covered,” and so it would not be necessary for the omniscient being to know A and B in addition to those dates.
But, of course, this claim can be challenged. To know the dates of the origin and the end of the earth does not entail knowing propositions A and B. To know A and B requires being situated within time (somewhere between the origin and end of the earth), so they are not anything that a timeless being could know. However, they certainly are things that an omniscient being must know. Thus, the given objection to premise 4 of the argument above is a failure.
It should be noted that a somewhat different incompatible-properties argument could also be constructed using the divine attribute of transcendence instead of immutability. The argument would focus on the point that a transcendent being must be timeless and a timeless being cannot know propositions about the past and future. However, an omniscient being, as shown above, must know propositions about the past and future. Therefore, it is impossible for a transcendent being to be omniscient. The incompatibility would be between attributes (c) and (e) on our list. Such an argument could be called “the Transcendence-vs.-Omniscience Argument.” The same issues would be raised in it as were raised, above, in connection with the Immutability-vs.-Omniscience Argument.
For Premise 2, my comments on omniscience are similar to my comments on immutability. Mr. Drange postulates God as totally omniscience. However I don’t believe God is totally omniscient. I believe, “If God exists, then He has limited omniscience. He is only omniscientabout His immutable motivations. About all else he has varying degrees of certainty.” Again an example of an immutable motivation would be God’s unconditional love for the beings He’s created. God would always know this about Himself and thus He is omniscient about it.
Our differences in Premise 3, hinge on the distinction between Mr. Drange’s premise of a totally immutable being and mine on a being that has both mutable and immutable motivations. I agree with Mr. Drange that a totally immutable being could not know different things at different times. However since the being I am proposing has limited immutability, this in no way affects the possibility of His existence.
Our differences in Premise 4, hinge on the distinction between Mr. Drange’s premise that a totally omniscient being needs to know propositions about the past and the future, while the being that I propose is only immutable about some of His motivations. Thus, the being that I propose doesn’t need to know propositions about the past and future for His immutable motivations, because by the definition of immutable, those motivations are never changing. They always were and more importantly always will be.
Our difference on Premise 6, hinges on whether all propositions about the past and future are the same. Mr. Drange thinks they are. I think some propositions don’t require a being to know different things at different times. For example if a being had an immutable motivation, then He would not need to know different things at different times about that motivation because, by the definition of immutable this motivation would never change.
On Premise 7, I agree with Mr. Drange that a totally omniscient being would need to know different things at different times. However the being that I am proposing is only omniscient about His immutable motivations, therefore, because those motivations are never changing he doesn’t need to know different things about them. Hence it is possible for a being to exist with immutable motivations and for that being to be omniscient about those motivations.
To be affected is to be changed in some way, so premise 3 is pretty much true by definition. Premise 4 might be challenged, but when the nature of love is contemplated, it is seen that 4 must also be true. The concept of love that is relevant here is that of agape, which is the willingness to sacrifice oneself for the sake of others. If events were to call for some sacrifice on God’s part, then, to be loving in the relevant sense, he must go ahead and perform the sacrifice. Since that requires being affected, the truth of premise 4 is assured.
This argument is a particularly forceful one. There is another argument which is very similar to it, which pits immutability against the property of being a person (property [g] on our list). It could becalled the “Immutability-vs.-Personhood Argument.” The basic idea behind it would be that in order to genuinely be a person (or personal being), it is necessary that one be capable of being affected by what happens. I think that that one, too, is quite forceful, but I shall not pursue it here. (For a similar argument, see section 6 below.) We have done quite enough with the divine attribute of immutability.
We agree on premise 2, If God exists, then he is all-loving.
On Premise 3, I agree with Mr. Drange that by definition, a being that is totally immutable cannot be affected by events. However the being that I propose is not totally immutable. Therefore He has the possibility of being affected by events.
On Premise 4, we both agree that to be all-loving it must be possible for a being to be affected by events.
On Premise 5, I again agree with Mr. Drange that by definition it would be impossible for a totally immutable being to be all-loving. However the being that I propose is not totally immutable. Therefore a being could exist that is partially immutable and all-loving.
The usual place at which this argument is attacked is premise 3. It is claimed that to transcend space does not entail being totally outside space. A being could be partly inside space and partly outside. Consider the Flatland analogy: a three-dimensional object transcends Flatland, and yet it exists within the Flatland dimensions (as well as outside). So, God could be like that. He exists within space (and, indeed, everywhere in space!) but he also exists outside space, the latter feature being what warrants calling him “transcendent.”
My only objection here is that the Flatland analogy does not quite make the idea of transcendence intelligible. We understand perfectly well how a three-dimensional object might “transcend” Flatland while still being (partly) within it. However, this is still talking about objects in space. To try to extend the analogy so as to talk about something that is “outside space as well as within it” is unsuccessful. That is something that we are totally unable to comprehend. In the end, the very concept of transcendence that is appealed to here is incoherent. This illustrates the point that defenses against incompatible-properties arguments may very well lead to incoherence or other objections to theism.
In Premise 1 Mr. Drange gives God the property of transcendence, while I give Him a similar though different property of multidimensionality. (For more on multidimensionality please refer back to Part 1 of this article, to the section titled Universe vs. Multidimensional Reality.)
We both agree on Premise 2. If God exists, then He is omnipresent.
On Premise 3, although I don’t necessarily agree with Mr. Drange that a transcendent being cannot exist anywhere in space, it’s unnecessary for me to argue the point because the being I propose is multidimensional and not transcendent. By definition a multidimensional being occupies or can be in more than one dimension at the same time.
We both agree on Premise 4, to be omnipresent a being must exist everywhere in space.
On Premise 5, although I don’t necessarily agree with Mr. Drange that a transcendent being couldn’t be omnipresent, it’s unnecessary for me to argue the point because the being I propose is multidimensional and so it is conceivable that a multidimensional being that is also omnipresent could exist.
Again, premise 3 might be challenged on the grounds that a transcendent being could be both partly inside time and partly outside time, with the latter feature being what warrants the label “transcendent.” That is, God is said to perform actions within time but also to have a part or aspect that extends outside time. However, this notion of “partly inside time and partly outside” is definitely incoherent. No one has a clue what that might mean. To pursue such a line of thought might evade the charge of “incompatible properties,” but it leads directly to the charge of incoherence, which is just as bad, if not worse.
Premise 4 might also be challenged. It might be said that its concept of personhood is too limited and that persons (or personal beings) could exist totally outside time. I am inclined to resist this sort of conceptual expansion. If the concept of personhood is extended that far, then it ceases to do the work that it was supposed to do, which was to make God into a more familiar figure. Furthermore, if persons (or personal beings) can exist totally outside of time, then it becomes unclear what it might mean to speak of “persons” (or “personal beings”) at all. The boundaries of the class become so blurred that the concept becomes vacuous.
Closely related to the concept of personhood is the concept of being free, which is property (h) on our list. An argument similar to 6, above, one which might be called the “Transcendent-vs.-Free Argument,” could be constructed, pitting property (c) against property (h). In its corresponding premise 4, the point would be made that, in order for a being to be free, it must exist and perform actions within time. Otherwise, there would be no way for any freedom to be manifested. Almost all theists, it should be noted, accept the idea that God is a free agent, and thus are inclined to say of him that he (at least occasionally) performs actions within time. If they call God “transcendent” at all, then they would aim to attack premise 3 of the arguments in question, not premise 4. Of course, as pointed out above, to attack premise 3 leads one to make incoherent statements, so such a maneuver cannot be regarded to be successful.
In Premise 1 Mr. Drange gives God the property of transcendence, while I give Him a similar though different property of multidimensionality. (For more on multidimensionality please refer to Universe vs. Multidimensional Reality.)
On Premise 3, I don’t fully agree with Mr. Drange that a transcendent being cannot exist and perform actions within time. However, it’s unnecessary for me to argue the point because the being I propose is multidimensional and not transcendent. By definition a multidimensional being occupies or can exist and perform actions within time and space.
On Premise 4 we basically agree that a personal being must exist and perform actions in time.
On Premise 5, although I don’t necessarily agree with Mr. Drange that a transcendent being couldn’t be a personal being, it’s unnecessary for me to argue the point because, the being I propose is multidimensional. Therefore it is conceivable that a multidimensional being that is also a personal being, could exist.
Commentary 7. – Nonphysical-vs.-Personhood – Mr. Drange
Premise 3 has been advocated by Kai Nielsen, who wrote: “we have no understanding of ‘a person’ without ‘a body’ and it is only persons that in the last analysis can act or do things.” But not all nontheists would accept 3. One who does not is J. L. Mackie. This argument turns on the issue of whether the idea of a “bodiless person” is consistent and coherent. That is a difficult and highly controversial issue, and I shall not pursue it here in this survey.
It should be noted that the divine attribute of being nonphysical might also be taken to be incompatible with still other divine attributes, such as being free and being all-loving, which would give rise to slightly different incompatible-properties arguments. All such arguments, though, would lead into the same sort of difficult and controversial issues as does the Nonphysical-vs.-Personal Argument, and so should not be regarded to be among the most forceful of the various atheological arguments available.
Commentary 7. – Nonphysical-vs.-Personhood – Mr. Sabella
Mr. Drange and I basically agree on Premises 1 & 2, If God exists, then He is nonphysical and a personal being.
On Premise 3, we disagree. Mr. Drange defines a personal being as needing to be physical, while I define a personal being as having the ability to communicate with other beings.
On Premise 4, because I don’t think a personal being needs to be physical it allows for the possibility of a being to exist that is personal and nonphysical, as long as that being is able to communicate with other beings.
Commentary 8. – Omnipresence-vs.-Personhood – Mr. Drange
The point of premise 3 is similar to that for the previous argument. When we contemplate what it means to be a person (or a personal being), we see that it conflicts with being omnipresent. What sorts of things might be omnipresent, anyway? Perhaps a gravitational field would serve as an example. They would all appear to be items in a different category from persons, so to try to assimilate them would be to commit a category mistake. Persons can no more be omnipresent than they can be odd or even (in the mathematical sense).
Commentary 8. – Omnipresence-vs.-Personhood – Mr. Sabella
On Premise 1, we both agree. If God exists, then he is omnipresent.
On Premise 2, we disagree on the initial property. Mr. Drange limits the property to personal being while I expand the property to multidimensional personal being. (For more on multidimensionality please refer back to Part 1 of this article, to the section titled Universe vs. Multidimensional Reality.)
On Premise 3, I don’t necessarily agree that a personal being couldn’t be omnipresent. However it’s unnecessary for me to argue the point because, the being I propose is multidimensional. Therefore it is conceivable a being could exist that is omnipresent and multidimensional.
Commentary 9. – Omniscience-vs.-Free – Mr. Drange
 Some have denied that omniscience entails knowing all about the future. They say that omniscience only entails knowing what there is to know. But the future actions of free persons are open, and not there to be known about. Thus, not even an omniscient being could know about them. This may provide a basis for rejecting premise 3 of the argument.
This sort of objection to 3 can be attacked in many different ways. One way would be to affirm that an omniscient being would indeed need to know all about the future. All propositions about the future are either true or false, and an omniscient being, by definition, must know the truth of any proposition that is in fact true. Furthermore, theists, often following the Bible on this point, commonly attribute unrestricted knowledge of the future to God. Indeed, if God does not know the future actions of any free beings, then there is very little, if any, pertaining to the future about which he can be certain. For no matter what the situation may be, there is always a chance that it will be affected by such actions.
Another way to attack the given objection is to maintain that, even if God does not know about the future actions of other free agents, he must know about his own future actions. One reason for this is that God’s actions are all based on perfect justice and immutable law. There is never any caprice in them. His purposes and intentions have remained steadfast from all eternity, so anyone who totally understands God’s purposes and intentions, as he himself does, would be able to infallibly predict his actions. It follows that God must know what he himself will and will not do in the future, which would establish the truth of premise 3 if it is taken to refer to God.
Premise 4 is a consequence of the definition of knowledge. If a proposition is known to be true, then it must be true and cannot be false. So, if X knows that Y will do Z, then it is impossible for Y not to do Z. And this is so even where X and Y are the same person.
Premise 6 says that a free agent can do what he doesn’t do. That may sound odd at first, but when it is understood correctly, it seems correct. Suppose we identify what Y does as “act Z.” Then in order for Y to be free, prior to doing Z, it must have been possible for Y to do Z and it must also have been possible for Y not to do Z. If it were not possible for Y not to do Z, then Y’s doing of Z could not be regarded as a free act. Free acts are avoidable. You can’t be free if you had to do the thing that you did. This seems intuitively right, though some forms of compatibilism might reject it. It is not a totally settled issue in philosophy. I leave it to the reader to ascertain whether or not premise 6 is correct. If it is, then I think the argument goes through.
Mr. Drange’s argument goes something like this. A being with omniscience knows exactly what he will do in the future. If a being knows what he’s going to do in the future then he must do that action, hence that being is not totally free. Therefore that being can not be omniscient and free. Therefore God doesn’t exist.
The being I propose however has limited omniscience and freedom. This being doesn’t know everything and that he can’t do everything. The only things he knows for sure are his immutable motivations. The things he can’t do are actions contrary to those motivations.
Suppose one of the immutable motivations this being had was unconditional love. Then that being would always know His motivations for doing things would come from unconditional love. He would be allowed to do many things but because this motivation was immutable he would be unable to do anything contrary to that motivation. He would not be totally free.
This is why I come to the conclusion it’s possible for God to exist if:
degrees of certainty. He has limited omniscience.
2). He can not act in ways that are contrary to his immutable motivations. He has limited freedom.
I have heard it said by Christians that the way God judges offenders depends on whether or not they are true believers. If they are, then he is lenient with them, but if they are not, then he treats them with exactly the severity they deserve (which can be pretty bad). By this Christian way of speaking, God is said to be both an all-just and an all-merciful judge. He is all-just in giving everyone an equal opportunity to become a true believer and thereby come to receive leniency, but he is also all-merciful in that every true believer, without exception, receives mercy. This way of viewing matters would be an attack on both premises 3 and 4 above.
I would respond by maintaining that premises 3 and 4 come closer to capturing ordinary language than the given Christian way of speaking. According to the latter, God treats some offenders more leniently with regard to what they deserve than he does other offenders. It does not seem that such a judge would (or should) be called “all-just.” And similarly, since he does not treat all offenders less severely than they deserve, he would not (and should not) be called “all-merciful” either. Instead of being both all-just and all-merciful, the Christian God, as described, would be neither.
As with many of the previous attacks on the incompatible-properties arguments, this one turns on semantical issues. In a sense, it is all a matter of semantics, for the issue of whether or not certain property ascriptions conflict with certain other property ascriptions depends very much on what exactly they mean. Theists could defend against the arguments by denying that the property terms in question mean what the proponents of the arguments claim they mean. Often such denials lead to still other difficulties for the theist. A full presentation and defense of incompatible-properties arguments should explore such implications and fully pursue the many issues, whether semantical or not. That project is beyond the scope of the present essay.
My aim was simply to survey several of the more common (and a few not so common) incompatible-properties arguments for the nonexistence of God. Just which of those arguments are sound and which of them are most effective in discussions and debates with theists are further issues that are certainly worth pursuing.
I don’t believe God actually judges us. I believe he sees our suffering and knows our suffering is exactly determined by the choices that we have made to distance ourselves from his love and guidance. There is no judgment involved. It’s an automatic process. Our exact degree of suffering is determined by the exact amount of separation we have chosen from God. Life on earth in this physical universe is the reality that automatically gets created by souls like us that have separated themselves from God to the degree we have. When we die, God in His mercy, reveals Himself to us. In that moment we recognize the glory of who we are (son’s and daughter’s of God) and the ignorance of who we thought we were (beings isolated from God’s love and guidance). Based on what we learn from that experience we re-enter life through a rebirth and go to a reality (on earth or someplace else) of other souls who need to learn lessons similar to our own.
Slowly, life after life, and death after death, we learn how to grow closer to God, and thus our suffering is exactly lessened to the degree we grow closer to Him. As our suffering decreases, we grow in joy, love, compassion, and creativity and gradually become the divine spiritual beings God, our Father/Mother, intended us to be when He created us before time began. For more on this please refer back to Part 1 of this article, to the sections titled Near-Death Experiences, and Morally Coherent God.
 See, especially, Theodore M. Drange, Nonbelief and Evil: Two Arguments for the Nonexistence of God (Amherst, N.Y.: Prometheus Books, 1998).
 See, especially, Richard M. Gale, On the Nature and Existence of God (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991), chapter 2. The versions of the argument discussed by Gale are different from the one taken up in the present essay.
 Gale, On the Nature and Existence of God, chapter 3.
 See J. L. Mackie, The Miracle of Theism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1982), pp. 1-2.
 For reasons that support the incoherence of “disembodied persons,” see Nonbelief and Evil, appendix E, section 2.
 See his Web essay “The Freewill Argument for the Nonexistence of God” at the following address: <http://www.ffrf.org/fttoday/august97/barker.html>.
“Incompatible-Properties Arguments: A Survey” was originally published in Philo and is copyright © 1998 by the Society of Humanist Philosophers.
The electronic version is copyright © 1999 Internet Infidels, Inc. with the gracious, written permission of the executive editor of Philo.
William Witherspoon, “String Theory and the Human Mind,”2000
Physics News, Number 479 (Story #1), April 13, 2000 by Phillip F. Schewe and Ben Stein
3. The Bible, The Genesis Network, http://www.genesis.net.au/~bible/kjv/genesis/
4. Near-Death Experiences & the Afterlife, near-death.com