Why the Traditional Concept of God is Contradictory

The traditional Judeo-Christian-Islamic idea of God is inherently and irredeemably contradictory from the standpoint of both philosophy and theology.

At the outset I need to make one thing perfectly clear. When we speak of the ‘traditional' idea of God we are referring to the supposed and presumed existence of a 'supernatural,' 'infinite' and 'immortal' personal or superpersonal being who is said to be all-powerful (omnipotent), all-knowing (omniscient), all-loving (omnibenevolent) and everywhere present (omnipresent), and who, at least according to the traditional interpretation of the Christian scriptures, is said to have taken human form uniquely in the person of Jesus Christ, who traditionally is said and held by Christians to be both fully human as well as fully divine. One more thing---this infinite God is said to be entirely separate from His [sic] finite creation, even though it is asserted that it is possible for us to 'know' this God.

Here’s one reason why the traditional theistic concept of God is inherently and irredeemably contradictory. In the course of this article I will give you some other reasons as well. If a supposedly supernatural God had an existence or presence before reality, that is, before the supposed creation of all that which is, then that God must be ‘unreal’, and therefore not God. Why? Because it is impossible to postulate a reality before it was present.

Christian apologists and other theists postulate the existence of some ‘atemporal’ reality, but that is a meaningless proposition. Why? Because action implies multiple states, and multiple states in turn require some form of time. Now, it is asserted that God exists ‘outside’ of all time, but the God of the Bible and the Qur'an is supposed to both think and create. ‘“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord’ (Is 55:8). ‘Your thoughts are of great worth to me, O God. How many there are!’ (Ps 139:17). ‘In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth’ (Gen 1:1). ‘I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the Lord do all these things’ (Is 45:7). ‘That is Allah, your Lord; there is no deity except Him, the Creator of all things, so worship Him. And He is Disposer of all things’ (Qur’an 6:102). ‘Allah is Ever-Knowing, Ever-Wise’ (Qur’an 8:71).

Now, please think about all this for a moment. Thinking and creating (making) things are both time-related activities. In other words, God is supposedly timeless but also causally efficacious, that is, God can affect material objects (the latter being a time-related concept). However, the only truly timeless things that we know are abstract objects---for example, numbers and sets---and they have no causal properties. But, God is supposedly abstract as well as having causal properties. That is a contradiction, and nothing with a contradictory nature exists or can exist. So God---at least the traditional theistic God---cannot, and therefore does not, exist.

The well-known Christian apologist William Lane Craig, in his book Time and Eternity: Exploring God’s Relationship to Time (2002), states that ‘outside of time, God is eternal; and with creation, God has entered time’. Well, if Craig is right, it means that God must have changed, but God, so we are told, is supposedly immutable. Now, if God is not subject to time, having entered the natural world from ‘outside’ (whatever that means, for it is impossible to conceive of anything existing ‘outside’ the universe), God can no longer be said to be supernatural or infinite. Why? Because it is impossible to speak meaningfully of the supposed infinite acting in the finite, the supposed non-temporal acting in time or entering into time.

Here’s another contradiction that cannot be resolved. I ask you this---why would a supposedly supernatural God (again, how can we conceive of anything being ‘supernatural’) bother to create a ‘natural’ universe, assuming for the moment that the universe was ‘created.’ Did God feel a lack of something? Did God want company, or something? If so, then God was not perfect in Himself/Herself/Itself. You see, so-called creationism and perfectionism---God is said to be both creator as well as a perfect being---are mutually exclusive.

Of course, there is no such thing as the 'universe.' That's right! You see, the word 'universe' is just that---a word. It simply means the sum 'total' of all there is, with the totality of all things being what is known as a 'closed system.' Each 'thing' is a cause of at least one other 'thing' as well as being the effect of some other 'thing,' so everything is explainable by reference to everything else. End of story.

Hence, all theological talk of the supposed need for some 'first cause' is, well, nonsense. As the Scottish-Australian philosopher John Anderson pointed out, 'there can be no contrivance of a "universe" or totality of things, because the contriver would have to be included in the totality of things.' (In any event, the entire notion of a supposed 'Being'---the 'contriver'---whose essential attributes [for example, omnipresence, omnipotence and omniscience] are non-empirical is unintelligible and inherently contradictory. In any event, why would a supposedly supernatural 'contriver' bother to 'create' a natural universe, assuming (once again) that it was created?

Here’s another inconsistency, assuming you're still 'with' me. God is supposedly blameless, yet there is the supposed reality of divine punishment, hell and eternal damnation. Those two ideas don’t sit comfortably together. I much prefer the Buddhist idea that we are punished by our 'sins,' not for them. Further, the existence of gratuitous evil and suffering in the world is incompatible with the notion of an omnipotent and omnibenevolent God. Evil or suffering is gratuitous if, in the view of reasonable persons, the world would be improved by its absence. Now, an omnipotent God would be perfectly able to create human beings that were genuinely free but who never used their freewill to do evil, but only to do good. However, it is said, at least by Christian apologists, that God knowingly created human beings who, God knew in advance, would use their freewill to do evil. I am sorry, but such a God is then morally responsible for all the evil and suffering in the world that has in fact ensued. Why? Because, as I have said, if God is all-powerful, God could have created human beings that were genuinely free, but who only used their freewill to do good. For example, a recovering alcoholic, who wishes to stay sober, chooses not to drink, one day at a time. Yes, he or she could choose to drink, but they consistently choose to exercise their freewill not to drink. If human beings can do that, then surely any decent God, who was all-loving and all-powerful, would want to create people like that.

In any event, the God of traditional theism is far from attractive. According to the Bible, God deliberately killed every living thing on earth (Gen 7:20-24), murdered innocent children (Ex 12:29), murdered over 50,000 people because they dared to look into the Ark (1 Sam 6:19), murdered infants and ripped fetuses from the womb (Hos 13:16), and supposedly commands the death penalty for adultery (Lev 20:10) and the murder of homosexuals (Lev 20:13)---and that's just for starters. Not a very nice person, to say the least. The God of the Qur’an can be just as unlovely. Unlike the Judeo-Christian God, who is said (except by some stupid and ignorant Christian fundamentalists whose God hates 'fags' [see picture above]) to ‘hate the sin but love the sinner,’ Allah loves only the ‘good’: ‘Allah loves not transgressors’ (Qur'an 2:190); ‘He loves not creatures ungrateful or wicked’ (Qur'an 2:276); ‘Say: 'Obey Allah and His Apostle;' but if they turn back Allah loves not those who reject Faith’ (Qur'an 3:32); ‘Allah loves not those who do wrong’ (Qur'an 3:57, 140); ‘Allah loves not the arrogant, the vainglorious’ (Qur'an 4:36); ‘Say, if ye love Allah, follow me; Allah will love and forgive you your sins’ (Qur'an 3:31). All I can say is, ‘thank God’---that’s a metaphor---for the Baptist minister Harry Emerson Fosdick who famously wrote, ‘Better believe in no God than to believe in a cruel God, a tribal God, a sectarian God. Belief in God is one of the most dangerous beliefs a man can cherish.’ (I once spoke those words of Fosdick at a debate at the Sydney Town Hall at which Dr William Lane Craig was present. However, the organiser of the debate, St Barnabas Anglican Church, Broadway, Sydney, shamefully edited out those words from my speech in the video tape of the proceedings. The truth hurts.)

Now, if the existence of certain state of affairs is logically incompatible with the purported existence of an all-powerful and all-loving God, or if it is intrinsically improbable that those states of affairs would subsist in a universe with such a God and more probable than not that they would subsist in a universe without such a God, then there are more than good grounds for believing that such a God does not exist.

Here’s another contradiction or dilemma. (I could list many, many more, but that's for another day.) Does God have a body? If so, where can we locate that body? You see, if God does not have a body, the alleged properties attributed to God (for example, that God is powerful, loving, good, and just) are totally misleading. Why? Because all such predicates apply to bodies whose behaviours are publicly observable. They do not apply to so-called ‘disembodied minds.’

In this article I have tried to use logic. Now, when I debate Christian apologists, they invariably assert that God is ‘above’ logic. That cannot be the case. God---or at least any concept of God---cannot be ‘above’ logic, whatever ‘above’ means. You see, the assertion that God is above logic is not an a priori proposition. Where is the theist’s proof for this assertion? In fact, the theist, although rejecting the applicability of logic, is still applying logic, albeit wrongly, in their arguments for the existence of God. The theist is tying themselves into a knot of their own making. What, I ask you, is the point of reasoning about God if the principal tool of reason---logic---is inapplicable. Never forget this---logic is about things, not thought. Logic is about how things are related to other things. In logic it is always a case of … what is. As philosopher John Anderson pointed out many times, there is only one order or level of reality such that a single logic applies to all things and how they are related to each other. There can be nothing ‘above’ or ‘below’ the proposition---not even God. If anything were above logic we simply could not trust our senses. That’s right---if God is above logic there can be no interpretation or logical extrapolation of God’s word, nor could there be any system of apologetics. For example, the various arguments for the Christian doctrine of the Trinity would immediately and totally collapse.

The theist is often a hypocrite. Theists do in fact use logic when expedient, that is, when it suits their purposes. Take, for example, the law of contradiction (that is, that anything with a contradictory nature cannot exist). The theist affirms that God cannot contradict Himself [sic]. Thus, God cannot create a rock that He [sic] can’t lift. God cannot create a round square. God cannot make the immoral moral. God may be all-powerful, says the theist, but God is still constrained by logic. If that were not the case, then there would be nothing to stop God from creating a rock so heavy that God could not lift it and then in the next moment lift it.

In short, a God ‘above’ logic doesn’t make any sense---not that a God subject to logic does either, as I’ve tried to show. Be that as it may, the idea of a God ‘above’ logic is inconsistent with the very attributes that go to make up the traditional theistic concept of God. Reason and observation tell us that nothing can be done by anything, including God, that is not otherwise part of God’s capabilities.

Assuming, for the moment that the traditional God of theism does in fact exist, that God would not be above logic nor below it. As with morality or goodness, reason would have to be seen as part of the very nature of God. Yes, any sensible concept of God would have to accept that God does not ‘submit’ to logic nor arbitrarily ‘create’ logic. Reason would have to be seen to be part of God’s nature. A sensible believer would also have to accept that God cannot contradict His/Her/Its own nature.