Friday, April 23, 2021

Why I can't believe in a God other than of classical theism

I can’t get myself to believe in a God who is an old bearded guy in the sky. That would be just a fairy tale.

What’s wrong with such a concept of God? It’s the beard! Seriously, the problem is that a guy who has a beard has parts and changing. Whether the parts are material or immaterial does not seem of very deep metaphysical significance. But having parts or changing, either one of these is an absurd anthropomorphism.

And hence I can’t get myself to believe in a God who changes or has parts. That leaves classical theism and atheism as the options. And atheism leads to scepticism, I think.


Majesty of Reason said...

There seem to be lots of relevant dissimilarities between the bearded sky man and a non-CT God. (Let’s suppose our non-CT mode affirms timelessness but says that God’s omnipotence, moral goodness, timelessness, necessity, and whatnot are numerically distinct.) First, there is a kind of essential, metaphysically necessary, and intelligible unity to God’s parts that is absent from the bearded sky man. It’s no coincidence, for instance, that omniscience, omnipotence, etc. are co-instantiated. By contrast, a bearded sky man involves a whole host of seemingly arbitrary limitations and coincidences: why is the beard 7.8 inches long and not 7.81 or 7.79? Why isn’t the man cleanly shaven? And so on. In the case of God, God’s unlimited perfection can provide the resources for seeing why each of God’s numerically distinct attributes are all compresent, without any arbitrariness or possibility of being separated from one another or limitation. By contrast, the bearded sky man is limited, has lots of arbitrariness, has parts that are possibly separated, and so on. Not to mention that a bearded sky man would plausibly be contingent, whereas the non-CT God is necessarily existent. I don’t see why all of these points (and more) don’t count as having “deep metaphysical significance”.

Anonymous said...

argument for the incompatibility of divine foreknowledge and human freedom.
a. The argument:
• Suppose that t is far in our future and that Socrates's sitting at t is taken as a paradigmatic example of a future contingent. Then the argument goes as follows:
(1) The proposition God believes that Socrates will sit at time t is true now. [assumption]
(2) If a proposition p is true now, then its past-tense counterpart will always be (accidentally) necessary from now on. [principle governing which propositions share in the necessity of the past]
(3) So the proposition God believed that Socrates will sit at time t will always be necessary from now on. [from (1) and (2)]
(4) Now the proposition God believed that Socrates will sit at time t entails the proposition If t is the present moment, then Socrates is sitting. [premise]
(5) But if (i) a proposition p will always be (accidentally) necessary from now and (ii) p entails q, then no one will ever have the power to cause q to be false. [principle relating (accidental) necessity to freedom and power]
Therefore, no one (including Socrates) will ever have the power to cause If t is the present moment, then Socrates is sitting to be false; that is, no one (including Socrates) will ever have the power to cause Socrates is sitting to be false at t, and so Socrates is not free to refrain from sitting at t. [from (4) and (5)]
But what applies to this action of Socrates's obviously applies to all alleged future contingents. Therefore, divine foreknowledge is incompatible with human freedom

Possible reply:

Thomism: Deny (1) because it falsely situates God's knowledge between eternity and the future; but this is not literally true since God's knowledge is equally related to all moments of time.

Problem: It appears that the very same argument could use the premise It is now true that God eternally knows that Socrates sits at time t.

To which I’d reply Yes, he does.

This is because God also fully knows himself and in knowing himself he knows all possibilities that can stem from his creative faculties. This means that he DOES in fact know that Socrates will sit at time t in at least one possible world non-contingent of that happening in one of his created realities(as this knowledge was had before the creation of these realities).

If this is so then I’d argue that when things occur in reality God truly gains no knowledge, this is just a possible world of his creative faculty playing out.
Modal realism within the mind of God(haha, thanks St. Augustine).

I do not necessarily have to deny free will if I hold that God is not the causal agent of human actions after creation but instead knows of all possible worlds prior to creation.

This would make sense of the idea in Acts that Jesus was pre-destined to come. ““Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs which God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know— this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.”
‭‭Acts‬ ‭2:22-23‬ ‭RSV-CI‬‬

I’d also still be able to hold the standard Dominican view that there’d be no reason for an incarnation/crucifixion if we never fell to begin with. As under this view, God did not cause the fall but it was rather a matter of his permissive will.

Please tell me what you think of this position. I’m a High School senior and have been into theology/philosophy for a while now but I’ve never really posted much online about my thoughts. God bless

Walter Van den Acker said...


What if God is His beard?

Martin Cooke said...

Changing by growing a beard would be an absurd anthropomorphism, but why is changing at all an absurd anthropomorphism? And if it is, why is being a person not an absurd anthropomorphism?

Is the idea of a person who is incapable of any change whatsoever not an absurd idea? And in any case, is the concept of absurdity not a strange one to pick to play such a fundamental role, when your God is an ineffable mystery? (Furthermore, I wonder if you think that it is the ultimate ground of being not being a person that leads to skepticism, and if so why?)

Anonymous said...

Being a ‘person’ is a statement of ‘who’ not a statement of change. A person changing would be them changing their nature, aka their ‘what’ not ‘who.’
For example, when a girl goes through puberty her ‘what’ changes in certain ways, but not her ‘who.’

Are you asserting that God goes through puberty and changes in nature?

Anonymous said...

Also if a being is apparently all-knowing my question would then be what could possibly happen to make that being change it’s nature? If it knows all possible things/outcomes what thing could possibly make it change?

Some new reality? There can be no ‘new’ reality for such a being.

Walter Van den Acker said...


There is a difference between possible things and actual things.
Possible things are necessarily possible, that means that they are possible in every possible world. Actual things, however, are not necessarily actual.
So, God in w1 knows all possible things as well as the actual existence of X, but God in w2 knows all possible things but not the actual exitence of X (because while X is possible in w2, it doesn't actually exist there.

Angelo Koprivica said...

Dr. Pruss, surely one denying either that God is metaphysically simple, atemporal, impassible, or changeless, does not mean that one has to concede that God is embodied and has a beard.

Arath55 said...

Dr. Pruss. I was reading your book “Necessary Existence” and I have a question. What does determinate or determinable means here?

“Here are some candidate examples: existence, truth, goodness, and necessity. Now, to be honest, we’ll have to expand our scope somewhat for our argument to work. In particular, it would help if we could include determinates of basic properties, such as contingent existence. Determinates of basic properties are still relatively natural-certain more so than the casual series property just considered. Moreover, causing a specific determinate is no harder than causing it’s more general determinables.

Unknown said...

An argument against contingent facts:

1. Suppose for a reductio ad absurdum that there is a big conjunction of all contingent facts (BCCF) (and so the BCCF is itself a contingent fact). [reductio premise]

2. Every fact has an explanation. [PSR]

3. Therefore, the BCCF has an explanation. [from 1 and 2]

4. If the BCCF has an explanation, then the explanation of the BCCF is either contingent or necessary. [premise]

5. Therefore, the explanation of the BCCF is either contingent or necessary. [from 3 and 4]

6. If the explanation of the BCCF is contingent, then the BCCF explains itself. [premise]

7. But no contingent fact explains itself. [premise]

8. Therefore, the explanation of the BCCF is not contingent. [from 6 and 7]

9. Therefore, the explanation of the BCCF is necessary. [from 5 and 8]

10.If the explanation of the BCCF is necessary, then the BCCF is necessary. [premise]

11. Therefore, the BCCF is necessary. [from 9 and 10]

12. Therefore, the BCCF is both contingent and necessary-i.e., both contingent and not contingent-which is absurd. [from 1 and 11]

13. Therefore, our supposition for reductio, premise (1), is false: there is no BCCF. [from 1 through 12]

14. Therefore, there are no contingent facts, i.e., there are only necessary facts. [from 13]

Dr. Pruss, I'd be curious to know what's your rebuttal to this argument of mine.

Benjamin Stowell said...


I think (Pruss can correct me on this) that Pruss would at least deny 10. I'm guessing this premise is simply assuming that explanation = entailment, which seems deniable. Rather there is an additional necessary fact apart from BCCF that explains BCCF and it's this supernatural fact that is the foundation of explanation for all natural facts.

Anonymous said...

I’m asserting that when it comes to God’s knowledge there’s no difference between a possible thing or actual thing whatsoever.
This whole assertion assumes that God’s knowledge is contingent upon the thing in itself being actualized I’m asserting that even things that are now actual things (actual worlds even) were once just possible things and while they were just possible things they were fully known to God no different from when they were made actual.

Anonymous said...


“Known to God from eternity are all his works (Acts 15:18)”
“Great is our Lord, and mighty in power; his understanding is infinite (Psalm 147:5).”

This whole assumption that you’re making is assuming that you can add something to infinity. Think about that for a second, this is also why I reject the classical Thomistic view on God’s knowledge and free will.
I don’t deny free will but instead assert that if there is a wholly ordered and deterministic world, you have to assume that any other possible worlds based upon this world (with the same mass, chemicals, and starting point) are exact replicas at base and that there would be no differences between these worlds. The only way that there can be any real differences between the worlds is IF there is some sort of free will for some agents. That will however is influenced by external realities and since the subjective experience is limited to what a person knows there is a limited amount of possible actions for the free agent to take. Either way, even if you live in a box or cage caused by your external influences you’re still free and COULD HAVE chosen otherwise.

Walter Van den Acker said...


Of course we can add something to infinity. Take the natural numbers. There are infinitely many. Then you add 0.1 and 0.999. Now we have another infinity that includes 0.1 and 0.999 as well as all the natural numbers.
If we apply this to God, then in w1, where only He is actual, He knows infinitely many possible things. But in w2, where God actualizes X, God knows infinitely many possible things, but also the actual thing X.

Alexander R Pruss said...


That argument sounds familiar. :-) It's discussed in my PSR book and in:

Alexander R Pruss said...


A determinate property is a more specific version of a determinable property.

Here are some determinable-determinate pairs:

colored - red
red - dark red
red - light red
big - very big
animal - mammal
mammal - human

Alexander R Pruss said...


Thanks for your thoughts!

I don't buy the assumption that there is such a thing as "accidental necessity". I think there is nothing absurd about an action affecting the past, as long as it does so in a way that cannot result in circularity or other paradoxes.

El Filósofo said...

Dr. Pruss, can I translate this publication into Spanish and publish it in an article? Because it really is a thought that I share

Alexander R Pruss said...

Go ahead.