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Problems with God's Attributes

Divine attributes of omniscience, omnipotence, omnibenevolence and immutability entail logical paradoxes and are mutually conflicting.

Citation Information

Allan, Leslie 2022. Problems with God's Attributes, URL = <https://www.rationalrealm.com/philosophy/metaphysics/problems-god-attributes.html>.

Creator God looking down up his creation

I have assembled below an abbreviated list of perfection-making divine attributes of God that lead to logical paradoxes and conflicts with other perfection-making divine attributes.

Treated each on their own and severally poses critical problems for classical theism that posits God as a supremely perfect being separate from his creation. Covered here are the divine attributes of omnipotence, omniscience, omnibenevolence and immutability.

Exponents of classical theism include Augustine, Anselm, Aquinas, Descartes and Leibniz. In the modern day, they include Alvin Plantinga, Richard Swinburne and William Lane Craig. The problems listed here are covered extensively in the philosophical literature.

Omnipotent (God is all-powerful)

God cannot create a stone that he cannot lift?

  • logical paradox

God cannot do evil
(e.g., torture an innocent child)

  • conflicts with his omnibenevolence/moral perfection

God cannot forget he is God

  • conflicts with God's omniscience

If it is thought that God can do evil and can forget, but that would never in fact happen, then that thought conflicts with a key axiom of classical theism; that God's attributes are all necessary. God necessarily cannot act in a way that diminishes his omnibenevolence or his omniscience. So, his power limitations are not simply contingent. They are necessary limitations on his omnipotence.

Omniscient (God is all-knowing)

God cannot know what I know (problem of indexicals):
(see Grim [1985, 2013])

  • that I am writing an essay
  • that it is raining now
  • that the parcel is being delivered here



  • conflicts with God's non-identity with me
  • conflicts with God's immutability
  • conflicts with God's non-locality

God cannot know my future free acts
(see Allan [2015])

  • conflicts with human free will
God knows that he knows ... leads to infinite regress
(see Allan [2022b])
  • logical contradiction

Omnibenevolent (God is morally perfect)

God cannot create the best of all possible worlds

  • conflicts with God's omnipotence

God cannot foreknow the actions of free moral agents
(see Allan [2015])

  • conflicts with God's omniscience

Immutable (God is unchanging)

God cannot know the current time
(e.g., it is now 2:30pm)

  • logical contradiction

God cannot know the tense of events
(e.g., Obama will be/is/was President)

  • logical contradiction

God cannot create anything
(e.g., the universe)

  • logical contradiction

God cannot intervene in the world
(e.g., miracles, answer prayers)

  • conflicts with God's omnipotence and omnibenevolence

God cannot act as a free moral agent

  • conflicts with God's omnibenevolence
Book cover: Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion by David Hume

References

  • Allan, Leslie 2015. The Problem of Evil, URL = <https://www.RationalRealm.com/philosophy/metaphysics/problem-of-evil.html>.
  • Allan, Leslie 2022a. A Case Against Omniscience: Fallibility, URL = <https://www.rationalrealm.com/philosophy/metaphysics/omniscience-fallibility.html>.
  • Allan, Leslie 2022b. A Case Against Omniscience: Infinite Regress, URL = <https://www.RationalRealm.com/philosophy/metaphysics/omniscience-infinite-regress.html>.
  • Cameron, Ross 2018. Infinite Regress Arguments, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2018 Edition), ed. Edward N. Zalta, URL = <https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/fall2018/entries/infinite-regress/>.
  • Duniho, Fergus 2019. The Impossibility of Omniscience, For the Love of Wisdom, URL = <https://fortheloveofwisdom.net/144/religion/the-impossibility-of-omniscience/> (Updated May 26, 2019).
  • Feldman, Richard 1981. Fallibilism and Knowing That One Knows, Philosophical Review 90/2: 266–82.
  • Grim, Patrick 2013. Problems with Omniscience, in Debating Christian Theism, eds J. P. Moreland, C. V. Meister and K. A. Sweis, Oxford University Press: 169–180.
  • Kretzmann, Norman 1973. Omniscience and Immutability, in Philosophy of Religion: Selected Readings, eds W. L. Rowe and W. J. Wainwright, New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich: 60–70.
  • Malpass, Alex 2016. Craig’s List – Omniscience and Actually Existing Infinities, UseOfReason, URL = <https://useofreason.wordpress.com/2016/03/06/craigs-list-omniscience-and-actually-existing-infinities/>.
  • Pearce, Jonathan M. S. 2013. God Cannot Know He Is Omniscient, A Tippling Philosopher, URL=<https://www.skepticink.com/tippling/2013/03/20/god-cannot-know-he-is-omniscient/> (Retrieved: July 11, 2022).
  • Wierenga, Edward 2021. Omniscience, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, (Summer 2021 Edition), ed. Edward N. Zalta, URL = <https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/sum2021/entries/omniscience/>.

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