The God Paradox

“Alleluia! For the Lord God Omnipotent reigns!” (Revelation 19:6)

“there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account” (Hebrews 4:13)

“Human beings perceive through the senses, but there are limits to what the senses let us perceive and understand. But God’s senses are not limited like ours! His Spirit searches all things (1 Corinthians 2:10), and nothing is beyond God’s ability to perceive it. In this sense, He is omniscient. Nothing can escape His gaze and His knowledge. If it can be known, He knows it!”[1]

There we have it then, the Lord our God, Yaweh is both omnipotent and omniscient.  He knows all, or as Wallace Smith states above, “if it can be known, He knows it”.  He is also all powerful, and I suspect Smith may too have felt the urge to utter, ‘if it can be done, He can do it’.  But the argument is not finished here, not by a long shot, for the logical mind sees much.  Maybe not as much as He, but we still have our moments.

There are, shall we say, some problems that arise from the above assertion, namely that one cannot be both omnipotent and omniscient at the same time.  Below is a paraphrased argument proffered by such acclaimed scientists such as Carl Sagan and Richard Dawkins:

The arbitrary suspension of one of more laws of physics, as is prescribed by virtually every Biblical Miracle, requires the progenitor of such an action to be, by definition, omnipotent – all powerful. Conversely, Biblical creator ideology demands that the same entity be omniscient –all knowing. These two concepts are in conflict and create an insurmountable paradox.

An entity that is omnipotent has both the will to do anything and the power to achieve whatever end. Not the least of which is the power to choose between one course of action and another.

An entity that is omniscient possesses complete knowledge of the universe, including knowledge of whatever actions the entity itself will take in the future.  This knowledge of future events rules out free will – the entity will already know what choices it will make in the future. The preordained choices of the omnipotent-omniscient being cannot be changed otherwise they will not have been preordained.

Though an all powerful entity –omnipotent- has the ability to do anything, including the ability to make a different choice, however, the will to make a different choice would already have been foreseen –or preordained- and therefore the resulting change would not have been a different choice from that foreseen.

The resulting paradox creates an infinite regress that cannot be overcome.  It seems our God is one or the other, not both…but which is it?  If one knows everything knowable, and has the power to do anything doable, then ones very nature is at odds with itself.

So let’s say, for arguments sake, that God is only omniscient.  He knows everything knowable, including what choices He will be faced with and what courses of action He will pursue in the future, including the effects of such action.  He can never make a wrong choice.  This would suggest that God is incapable of changing His own mind, that He is locked into the preordained fallout of a single act.  He is trapped within His own will and cannot take action to change things as he desires.

There is a solution to His problem, or is there?

If He were only omnipotent though, He could do anything; He could make worlds and cause men to walk on water.  He could part seas and turn infidels into pillars of salt.  So it would be the least of his ability to change his own mind, to undo a choice in favour of an alternative.  Yes, he would be capable of spontaneity and His will would be done.

But here’s the kicker, a being that is capable of spontaneity, to the magnitude of omnipotence, cannot also know the outcome of every choice, because those choices would then no longer be spontaneous.  The greater question here is thus, does God have free will?  Most would say “yes, of course!”  But on closer inspection, one finds that his own free will negates his omnipotence, and therefore the answer is no.

Our oldest and holiest teachings tell us that he is both omnipotent and omniscient, but logic tells us that this is impossible, such a being cannot exist.

 


[1] By Wallace Smith, as an extract from God and the “Three ‘O’s, Living Church News, Sep-Dec 2007

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