Challenge: Neither a Perfect nor an Imperfect God Would Create

Posted: March 27, 2012 by Amy Hall in Choosing My Religion, Weekly Challenge

For this week’s challenge, we have an question sent in by Tommy:

Here’s a question I found on a website about Jainism: “If God is ever perfect and complete, how could the will to create have arisen in Him? If, on the other hand, He is not perfect, He could no more create the universe than a potter could.”

We haven’t spent much time on Jainist objections, so this will be interesting! What do you think? Was God complete in Himself before creation? What prompted Him to create? And perhaps more interestingly, what prompted this question? Why would a Jainist ask this question? When you’re talking to people about their objections, it’s important to know where they’re coming from so that you can address their specific question in light of the worldview behind it. There are many ideas behind this question towards which you could move the discussion.

So let us know how you would respond to a friend who challenged you with this, and we’ll hear Brett’s answer on Thursday.

Comments
  1. Kevin Walker says:

    Does anyone else feel like this objection seems very ambiguous? It means to put the theist in a dilemma of sorts and force him to say that God cannot be personal, or that the idea of a personal God is incoherent, but it just seems to make a lot of implicit assumptions that need to be argued for, and not merely asserted. From the outset it might be helpful to ask what is meant by the theistic conception of “perfection.” Otherwise, we will be using one word, but with two different meanings in our minds, and will end up talking past one another. As far as I know, what the theist means by perfection, is that God, does not LACK any positive property that can be had in an infinite way. Some have called them “great making properties.” So God is morally perfect, because he possesses all of the positive moral properties (goodness, patience, etc.) in the infinite way. God is perfect in knowledge because possesses all of the positive knowledge properties (knowing all true propositions). God is perfect in power because he possesses all of the positive properties of power, etc. Forgive me if I am stating this slightly wrong, sort of typing in a hurry. So this is what the theist has in mind. But the first premise (horn) seems to be assuming that if God is perfect, then the will to create could not have arisen in him because he HAS NO DESIRES. They are assuming that perfection entails God’s not having desires or not being able to acquire a desire. But this is not be any means clear to me, at least not by merely asserting it. So they would need to produce some sort of argument for that. So the first part does not go through. The second part is even worse I think. This is because I see NO connection whatsoever between something’s being imperfect, and it not being able to create something. How on earth does this even being to follow? Even if we conceded the fact that God was somehow imperfect, this does not even slightly lend itself to the conclusion that therefore, he cannot create a universe. I don’t see it. Again, they need to give some reason for accepting this conclusion. Until then, we are warranted in retaining our agnosticism about the premise. For a disjunction of this sort to work, these have to be the ONLY two options. And it meets this criteria (either God is perfect, or not perfect), but it must ALSO have true premises. But neither one of these is true, so it does not succeed in disproving God’s perfection I don’t think. Seems like a different, but convoluted version of the Euthyphro Dilemma, only with false premises. Sorry for rambling. Have a good one everybody 🙂

    • The explanation I have always gotten to the question (why would God create anything in the first place?) is that he did it to share his love. But, this, for me at least, means that God would want to share more and more of his love, and so create an infinite amount of persons to love. I realize that this is not really on the subject, but perhaps someone has some thoughts about it.
      Love your work Brett.

  2. My apologies, saw now that Amy wrote this. Love your work as well.

  3. Adrian Urias says:

    Victor Stenger brought something like this up in a debate with Craig. I’ve been pondering it ever since.

    But the issue, so the argument goes, seems to be “lacking”. Creation of the world implies that God wants something. But if God is perfect, then he wont lack anything. If he doesn’t lack anything, he wont create anything. Some things are created, therefore, God is not perfect. Therefore, God does not exist.

    But I think what needs to be shown here is that creation implies a lack of something necessarily. And thats up to them to show.

    But as Christians, we understand that God did not have to create us. Nothing we can do can do any real harm to God, including us ceasing to exist. I don’t see why God could have created us so that he can be glorified, and for that reason only. It’s not necessary, but supererogatory.

  4. bwgoodson says:

    To the question: “Was God complete in Himself before creation?”

    I would argue that yes, He was/is. There is nothing that God lacked prior to creation that He lacked. This is also one of the strengths of the Christian idea of the Trinity. Within the concept of the Trinity, God was able to express and experience love prior to creation among the three persons of the Trinity. Therefor, the argument that God must create to experience or express love is unwarranted.

    To the question: “If God is ever perfect and complete, how could the will to create have arisen in Him?”

    I think the answer above stands in response to the “completeness” factor. Regarding the perfection of God, I rather like Ravi Z’s comment, “God is the only entity in existence, the reason for whose existence is in Himself; all other entities or quantities exist by virtue of something else and in that sense He alone is perfect, uncaused, infinite and an independent being in essence.”

    It would seem that the term “will” is being used to indicate a “need”. God did not “need” to create, instead it is simply something he desired to do. It is a little confusing as to how the concept of God being perfect would act to limit His desire to create. In fact, it seems that His perfection answers to why He would create. I think the real question should be “why would a perfect God not create?”

    If Janist believe that each living organism has a soul, then why would they not believe that perfect being would want there to be other souls that could potentially attain perfection? I can understand to some small degree why the Janist would want to create their own reality that would eliminate a transcendent creator, but their method of doing so seems to be quite muddled.

  5. bwgoodson says:

    CLARIFICATION:

    Original Sentence: “There is nothing that God lacked prior to creation that He lacked.”

    Analysis: ummmm, Duh! What I should have written is something more like:

    “There is nothing that God lacked prior to creation that was fulfilled by His creation”. I hope that clarifies my comment. Where is thought-check when you need it?

  6. At first glance, this question won’t make a lot of sense if you don’t know anything about Jainism. I really don’t know a whole lot about it myself. However, I do know that it carries with it the prominent eastern philosophy that perfection is “divine consciousness,” or a separation of the self and the achievement of a greater sense of reality. While I am not sure I understand this correctly, I am fairly certain that to a Jainist, the greatest good achievable is to be completely free of desires, needs, or wants. The ultimate state of reality is nothingness of sorts.

    When we learn this, we see that the Jainist is actually trying to apply one of their preconceived notions to God. However, I don’t think this notion has any application to reality, it’s just how they define perfection. I would ask the Jainist why they think God must fit this particular definition in order to be perfect.

    This objection at its core is similar to the “Can God make a rock so big even He can’t lift it?” argument. They are trying to show that God logically cannot exist. However, I just don’t see the contradiction. The Jainist needs to defend the notion that to be perfect one must totally lack any sort of desires or will to act. This notion is not found in the Bible, so they cannot merely apply it to God unless they first defend it.

  7. Adrian Urias says:

    according to wikipedia

    According to Jain beliefs, the universe was never created, nor will it ever cease to exist. Therefore, it is shaswat (eternal) from that point of view. It has no beginning or end, but time is cyclical with progressive and regressive spirituality phases. In other words, within the universe itself there will be constant changes, movements and modifications in line with the macro phases of the time cycles.

    That is why a jain would ask this question.

  8. Justin says:

    I think this objection hits on something VERY problematic for Christianity.

    Any intentional action requires a desire to be causally prior, not necessarily temporally prior, to the action.

    To have a desire is to prefer that a state of affairs other than the current one becomes the case, or, to prefer that the current one continue to be the case.

    Does anybody have any disagreement with anything I have said so far?