Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able ? Then he is not omnipotent.

Is he able, but not willing ? Then he is malevolent.

Is he both willing and able ? Then whence cometh evil ?

Is he neither able nor willing ? Then why call him God ?


Any thoughts ?

Tags: Epicurus

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I don't understand why having God be able and not willing makes him malevolent.  


"I don't understand why having God be able and not willing makes him malevolent."

Would you care to elaborate ?

If I am able to rescue a drowning child and am not willing, I reveal a character trait. 

If I am not able and willing, I reveal a different character trait. 

If I am able and willing or 

If I am not able and not willing,

each one of these characteristics reveals our character. 

Add to that able and willing and ready.

Epicurus' Riddle touches closely on the issue of free will versus determinism, a controversy that has riveted Christian thinkers since Augustine. There's been a wide range of answers to the dilemma, but the one that I find most impressive was cooked up, IIRC, by Aquinas. He argued that God was omnipotent with respect to the underlying principles by which the universe progresses, but not with respect to the actual events themselves. In other words, God said "Let there be physics!" and then stepped back and let the clock run by itself. In effect, he established the rules of the game but allows the players to decide their moves within his rules. 

In a sense, God is then omnipotent in the same way that an absolute dictator is omnipotent. The dictator doesn't move the bodies of his subjects like puppets; instead, he lays down the laws that control their behavior. Violation of the laws is punished, but his subjects are still free to make their own choices.

It's an interesting philosophical notion with broad ramifications.

Interesting....  limited omnipotence.  That sounds like finite infinity.

On the other hand, it sounds like a politician coming back with "what I really meant was...."  when caught in a statement they didn't think out clearly enough the first time.

But I'm not all that good when it comes to philosophy.  Or politics.

True Sentient, it's called religious obfuscation or making-things-up to confound philosophy.

This is all Aquinas was good at creating confounding nonsense.

It's sort of making up garbage to dispel/disperse criticism of Christianity and conflicts within Christian theology or in other words, telling-lies-for-god.

Studies into his experience of visions clearly demonstrates that he likely suffered schizophrenia or Temporal Lobe Epilepsy which is often to those experiencing them, better than sex.

Thus the lack of interest when his brother lined him up a prostitute and his inclination towards celibacy.  He was getting something better, TLE hallucinations of heavenly images.

Yes, monotheism is starting to appear as a product of schizophrenia and TLE hallucinations.

Aye M8!   

I agree that a modern rationalist would find a lot of nonsense in Aquinas' writings, but I think it more illuminating to consider his writings in the context of the intellectual milieu of the times. Remember, in those times atheism was simply unthinkable. Each of the monotheist religions generated a thinker who attempted to put theology on a logical foundation by reconciling it with Aristotelian thinking. An Islamic thinker was first; then a Jewish philosopher tackled the problem; Aquinas came later. Crucially, only Aquinas succeeded in devising a system that was accepted by his co-religionists; both Islam and Judaism rejected the logical approach to theology. This proved to be a key factor in the later Western development of science. 

Aquinas made a pretty good start on the problem but couldn't quite tie up the loose ends. This triggered scholasticism, which spent some centuries trying to nail down those loose ends. Ultimately, scholasticism drowned in its own quiddities. 

The experience of visions has a long tradition in Christianity and there's no question that claims of such visions lent credibility to one's beliefs. I'm reluctant to accept the assertions that Aquinas suffered from mental illness; they strike me as an ad hominem attempt to discredit the man's writings. If you compare his writings with those of other Christian thinkers of the time, you can see that Aquinas is bringing greater rigor to the process. 

"Yes, monotheism is starting to appear as a product of schizophrenia and TLE hallucinations."

This strikes me as an attempt to reduce a complex issue to simple terms. Religion is an immensely complex subject; all cultures for all known history have had some kind of history. Because it is such a complex human activity, it cannot be boiled down to such simplistic terms. It's like language. Many people think that there are primitive languages. Linguists have learned that there is no such thing as a primitive language; all languages are roughly comparable in complexity and sophistication. Moreover, the range of linguistic structures is truly impressive; people have come up with the most amazing ways to communicate vocally. Some languages, for example, conjugate verbs based on whether the speaker knows the truth of the statement from direct observation, from an indirect report, or is merely speculating.

The fact that we have freed ourselves from religious thinking should not encourage us to dismiss such thinking entirely; despite its many downsides, religion also has illuminating ideas.

McCarthy-Jones, S. (2011). Seeing the unseen, hearing the unsaid: Hallucinations, psychology, and St Thomas Aquinas. Mental Health, Religion and Culture, 14, 353-369.

No Chris: Neurology is digging deeper into the human condition.

The types of hallucinations people report and their counterpart Near Death Hallucinations which is still being wrongly argued as insights into the patient's actual future is still being tabled by theistic die-hards who won't let go of their precious delusions of grandeur.

I'm continually being confronted by those who keep telling me that Mrs X's NDH is proof that god exists.

We are very sure that voices and visions of god are products of faults in the temporal lobe regions and related connections to the insular.

Including those reported by both Moses, Solomon, Saul and Aquinas plus many others.

The research is continuing and likely the ability to pinpoint regions based on aspects or contents of the hallucinations is becoming increasingly accurate.

Though everybody's brain is wired differently, the similarities are striking.

So such arguments as I've been deliberately hammering will become more frequent in society and there will be a lot of very angry theists, especially Catholics, Mormons and Seventh Day Adventists whose founders and heroes are all being targeted as brain damaged, hallucination sufferers.

Which should lead society in general to completely question the foundation of all of the religions within our society and we hope to eventually can them as completely irrational, which they indeed are.

Christianity and it's cousin Islam should assume no better standing in society than Iridology, palmistry, Tarot Card reading, Tea Leafology, Astrology and Numerology.

Because, honestly and truthfully, bundled with them is where they belong.

Cheers M8!  :-D~

This single paper seems rather thin evidence. It is not available free online, but the abstract is and the author states that it is fundamentally unknowable whether Aquinas had auditory hallucinations.


I have a bias: ABCTV: Attitudes, Beliefs, Customs, Traditions and Values are constructs in the human mind to explain the unexplainable. Over time and brain development, the ABCTVs evolve as new information comes along. 

This was a little teaching device I used while teaching dysfunctional parents of dysfunctional boys at a boys ranch, at the prison, and in college classes. People have a really hard time seeing how ABCTVs work in their lives. We had to examine what they believed and explore if their behavior helped or hurt their relationships. 

I jump in my seat each time I read,  "limited omnipotence". I must pause a moment and respond with a profound and emphatic YES!  

Having your insides slit and slashed didn't diminish your thinking any!

By the way, I do not intend to be insensitive; old habits die hard. My grandmother graduated from nursing school in 1904 and their class motto was

"Slit, slash, blood, and gore,

We're the class of 1904".

~ Ella Harkness Denoo


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