Apologetics to the Glory of God

“The Problem of Non-God Objects”

Justin Scheiber recently gave a presentation which may be found here – http://freethoughtblogs.com/reasonabledoubts/2012/08/29/rd-extra-the-problem-of-non-god-objects on a philosophical problem he believes he has developed with respect to God and creation. Let me begin by stating that I did not listen to his presentation in its entirety, though I did jot down the argument itself and the objections he attempted to answer. The argument Justin presented may be stated as follows:

(1)    There is a possible world ‘P’ that is God existing alone and nothing else existing for eternity.

(2)    God is a perfect being.

(3)    Therefore, ‘P’ is the ‘Best Possible World.’ (From 1, 2)

(4)    God always desires the best possible world over all others.

(5)    Therefore, God always desires ‘P’ over all other possible worlds. (From 3, 4)

(6)    If any Non-God objects were to exist in the actual world, then God desired some other world over ‘P’.

(7)    Non-God objects exist in the actual world.

(8)    Therefore, God desired some possible world over ‘P’. (From 6, 7)

(9)    It is impossible for God to always desire ‘P’ over all possible worlds and to desire any possible worlds over ‘P’.

Now the notion Justin apparently has as to the originality of the argument is certainly suspect. Especially since it immediately reminded me of a similar argument made by Thomas Morris on page 142 of Our Idea of God (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1991):

If God is the greatest possible being, no act of creation can result in anything greater. It is just impossible that anything be greater than a greatest possible being. Now, consider our universe as God’s creation, the product of his creating activity. Either the universe has positive value or it doesn’t. But if it does have positive value, then it seems we are forced to admit that God plus the universe is greater than God alone. For if God manifests some positive level of value n and the universe manifests at least a single unit of positive value, 1, then the additive value of God plus the universe is at least n + 1, which is greater than n. But it is impossible that anything be greater than God, so it is impossible that the universe have positive value.

Not the same argument exactly. But similar, to be sure. Similar enough that the reply offered by Morris should satisfy the demands of Justin’s implicit request for a logical solution. Recall the first three premises of Justin’s argument:

(1)    There is a possible world ‘P’ that is God existing alone and nothing else existing for eternity.

(2)    God is a perfect being.

(3)    Therefore, ‘P’ is the ‘Best Possible World.’ (From 1, 2)

We might call the first and second premises into question, but that is a discussion for another time and place. For now, note the third premise of the argument. It is supposed to follow from the first and second premises. Only…it doesn’t. Enter Morris:

God is to be thought of as the greatest possible being. And this is a claim that does not entail the separate proposition that the state of affairs of God’s existing alone is the greatest possible state of affairs. The latter proposition is one that the Anselmian theist can deny. And it is one which the Christian theist will deny. Following the affirmations of the book of Genesis, and in accordance with some metaphysical or axiological principles connecting the goodness of God with the goodness of his creation, we can acknowledge that the state of affairs consisting in God’s sharing existence with our created universe is greater than the state of affairs of God’s existing in pristine isolation or solitude. But from this, it does not follow that there is any being or individual greater than God. This would be the case only if God and the created universe could be thought of as parts of a larger object, God-and-the-world, which could be assigned a value as a distinct individual, additively derived from the values of its parts. And this is prohibited for at least two reasons. First, there is no natural principle of unity in accordance with which God and the created universe would together compose one object. Second, it is just conceptually precluded by perfect being theology that God ever be considered a part of a larger and more valuable whole, an entity distinct from, but partially composed by, God. With all this in mind, we can affirm the positive value, even the great positive value, of the created universe, without thereby posing any threat to the conception of God as the greatest possible being, and without any risk of contradiction arising in connection with that conception. With sufficient care in our thought about God and creation, the dilemma of created goodness does not arise at all. (Morris, Idea, 143)

So setting aside other potential difficulties with Justin’s argument, the third premise (which does most of the work in the argument) is plainly false. He is conflating God as perfect being with the greatest possible world. Not only that, but when Justin attempts to answer a response that starts out with a claim similar to the one made by Morris, he digresses into a strange discussion about morality and repentance that does not address the distinction he fails to make in presenting the argument.

This is not the only or best way to respond to the argument proposed above, but that’ll do pig, that’ll do.