Gods omniscience and omnibenevolence are compatible. Discuss.

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God’s omniscience and omnibenevolence are compatible. Discuss.

A number of philosophical problems are raised by the concept of God being omniscient and omnibenevolent, thus leading to the suggestion that these two attributes of God are incompatible. The most well known problem raised that would suggest the two attributes are not compatible is the problem of evil in the world. If God knows evil things are happening- why would he allow them to happen if he was omnibenevolent? A second argument to suggest that the two are incompatible is that an all-loving God would not punish humans if he was omniscient. Also, as God has not made our nature perfect, it suggests he either does not know how to, or is not loving enough to do so. These three problems suggest that omniscience and omnibenevolence are not compatible. However, if these problems are showed to be flawed, then omniscience and omnibenevolence can indeed be said to be compatible.

Determinists argue that if God knows the future it is thus caused by God, so we therefore have no free will. Aquinas supported this view that God’s knowledge causes our choices to happen. Just as a sculptor for instance, has knowledge of her creation before she creates it, God’s knowledge is thus the source of everything. We are therefore not responsible for our actions, as we have not willingly chosen to do anything of our own accord- our lives our predestined (a view held by John Calvin). It is therefore malevolent, unfair and unloving of God to punish people (especially by sending a person to hell) when they did not have the chance to do otherwise. Thus if God is indeed omniscient and knows our future before it happens, he cannot be omnibenevolent.

However, perhaps a better light can be cast on this issue by the work of Boethius. In ‘Consolations of Philosophy’, Boethius’ argument suggests omniscience is compatible with omnibenevolence, by showing that humans have free will while God is omniscient. He argues that God’s nature is timeless and a temporal. God is eternal- seeing everything simultaneously in one single, eternal present. God gives us our simple necessity- he gives us legs for example. It is possible for humans to add to this simple necessity. The act of cycling can be added to the condition of legs. Therefore, this addition of the condition to our simple necessity keeps humans free agents, as God does not force us to add a condition to our simple necessity. He provides the simple necessity- but it is humans who can add to it, and assign further purposes. God’s foreknowledge does not control us. God simply acts as an observer outside of time. As God’s knowledge does not force us to do anything- so humans do have free will- God is justified in judging and punishing humans. If this is the case, then omniscience and omnibenevolence are compatible.

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A number of philosophers questioned Boethius’ understanding of an ‘eternal’ God, seeing past, present and future at the same time. Geach argued this was not consistent with the Bible, where God’s incarnation is linear in the New Testament, or where the prophecies in the Old Testament said that God would send a saviour in the future. Also, Anthony Kenny argued in ‘The God of Philosophers’ that the concept of God seeing the past, present and future at the same time does not make sense. Swinburne agreed with this view, and questioned Boethius’ understanding of omniscience. He felt that omniscience did ...

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