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Friday, April 13, 2012

Omniscience and Learning by Ryan Stringer

Ryan Stringer, at Infidels.org., wrote and article called Omniscience and Learning. The article's main argument was that if God is omniscient (all-knowing), then it seems that he would have to know what it is like to learn. However, in order to know what it is like to learn, one must have learned something, which involves moving from a state of not-knowing to a state of knowing.

This entails that at one time we were in a state of not-knowing a thing that was learned, then experienced what it is like to learn. But if God is essentially omniscient, he always is and has been omniscient, so was never in a state of not-knowing. Because being in a state of not-knowing is necessary to know what it is like to learn, we would seem to have to say that God does not know what it is like to learn.

But this contradicts the original claim that he does know this based on his omniscience. Thus, it seems that God's omniscience generates a contradiction. Consequently an omniscient God cannot exist.

In response, I offer the following:
"As man is, God once was; as God is, man may become." - Lorenzo Snow
But Stringer predicted a defense much like this. He says,
"...a critic could reject committing to God's essential omniscience—the notion that, as an essential property, omniscience necessarily (and thus always) belongs to God. This imagined critic might think that at one time God was almost omniscient, and shortly thereafter acquired his last two pieces of knowledge—X, and what it is like to learn. However, this strange position has no obvious candidate for X, and in any case does not seem to be a real threat to the argument because P1[An essentially omniscient being, God, exists.] is a necessary truth by stipulation of the traditional conception of God as essentially omniscient."
In other words, it's possible to resolve this issue by admitting that there was a time when God "learned" something, but that would require the rejection of the traditional conception of God.

I'm OK with that.


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