What is God?

Theism and Other Definitions

  1. Four Alternative Definitions of 'god':

    1. Theism - the 3-O god

      1. Omnipotent - all powerful
      2. Omniscient - all knowing
      3. Omnibenevolent - all good

    2. Deism - The Supreme Being

      1. Omnipotent - all powerful
      2. Omniscient - all knowing
      3. Perfect Being - lacking nothing

    3. Pantheism - All is god

    4. Panentheism - All is in god

    NOTE: it is important to distinguish these terms from some other common terms used to describe God:

    These terms are appropriate in the context of anthropology where we are describing the belief systems of various peoples, but inappropriate in philosophy where we are attempting to analyze the concept 'god' itself. None of these anthropological terms give us any substantial description or analysis of the concept of the divine.

  2. Theism and the nature of God:

    1. Omniscience - knowing everything that can be known

      1. God knows things through his own essence (p. 33)

      2. God's knowledge is the cause of things (pp. 34, 35)

      3. God knows only those things that are (p. 35)

        1. actual - that which exists
        2. potential - that which does not exist, but could at some future time

      4. God knows universals and particulars (p. 37)

        • P1 All things are caused by God's knowledge.
        • P2 God knows all things that exist.
        • P2.1 Universals are the cause of all particulars.
        • P2.2 God knows all universals.
        • c God knows all Particulars.
        • C Both particulars and universals are know to God.

      5. God's knowledge is infinite (p. 38)

        • P1 God knows all actual and possible things.
        • P2 There are an infinite number of possible things.
        • C. God's knowledge is infinite.

      6. God knows future contingent things (pp. 40, 41) - the terms 'past', 'present', and 'future' only refer to temporal beings, hence what is 'future contingent' to us is always present to God.

      7. God's knowledge is immutable (p. 43)

        • P1 God's substance is knowledge.
        • P2 God's substance is immutable.
        • C God's knowledge is immutable.

    2. Omnipotence - having the power to do anything that can be done

      1. Possible vs. Impossible (p. 60)

      2. The possible impossibility of evil (pp. 62, 63)

    3. Omnibenevolence - perfectly good

    4. Immutable/Impassible/Simple - unchangeable

      1. God contains time (p. 76) (St. Anselm)

      2. Accidents do not apply to God (pp. 76, 77) (St. Anselm)

      3. God is not affected by sympathy (p. 77) (St. Anselm)

      4. God is simple: (St. Thomas, pp. 78, 79)

        1. God is incorporial
        2. God is prior to all things
        3. God has no cause
        4. God has no potentiality
        5. Composites cannot be predicated of their parts

      5. God is immutable: (St. Thomas, pp. 79, 80)

        1. Potentiality does not apply to God
        2. Movement implies change

    5. (Necessary Being) - cannot fail to exist

      1. St. Anslem: (pp. 6-8)

        1. Two Modes of Existence -

          • contingent (that which exists from or through something else)
          • necessary (that which exists neither from or through something else)

        2. Three forms of contingency - Every contingent thing comes to be through something else:

          • Through matter
          • Through agency
          • Through assistant agency

        3. Why God cannot be contingent -

          • If God was created through matter, it would have existed prior to God, and God would not be God.
          • If God was created through some other efficient (i.e., antecedent) agent, it would exist prior to God, and God would not be God.
          • If God was assisted in bringing Itself to be by some outside force, it would be prior to God, and God would not be God.
          • Nothing can come to be through nothing.

      2. St. Thomas: (pp. 9-12)

        1. God's existence is self-evident

        2. God's being and essence are identical.

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