The August 29th episode of the skeptical podcast, Reasonable Doubts, featured a lecture by panel member Justin Schieber to CFI Michigan delivered on August 22nd 2012.
In this lecture, titled The Problem of Non-God Objects, Schieber advances an argument against the Christian God based on the existence of the universe. Says Schieber:
“For God’s initial creation act to be an intentional one, He needed to desire a world composed of God and non-God objects more than a possible world where it’s just God. But if there is a world more perfect than pure divinity; a state more perfect than divine, Trinitarian solecism, then surely this initial state can be improved, or wasn’t perfect in the first place.”
Sheiber provides a nine-point argument:
- There is a possible world (P) that is God existing alone, and nothing else existing.
- God is a perfect being.
- Therefore P is the best possible world. A world in which all that exists are all the greatest goods maximized.
- God always desires the best possible world over all other possible worlds.
- Therefore, God always desires P over all other possible worlds.
- If any non-God objects were to exist in the actual world, God desired some other possible world over P such that he made it the actual world.
- Non-God objects exist in the actual world.
- Therefore, God desired some possible world over P.
- It is impossible for God to always desire P over all other possible worlds AND to desire any possible world over P.
Indeed, the question “Why did God choose to create” is one that is not exclusive to skeptics. It has been asked by theologians since the beginnings of Christianity. It may not be possible to answer such a weighty question in brief, however it may still be possible to answer Schieber’s objection by raising a few points.
The first point that is necessary to understand is the eternality of God. That is to say that God exists outside of time. This is important because to say that there was a time that non-God objects did not exist is to misunderstand the nature of time. Time and space are inextricably linked such that without “non-God” objects there is no time. God, on the other hand, does exist in a state of perfection outside of time such that creation, though finite, has eternally been within the perception of God.
A very real objection to Schieber’s argument becomes, is it possible for God to exist at all without acting? If God sits in a vacuous state, and does nothing, in what sense does He exist?
Secondly, is it possible for God to act if there is nothing outside of Himself upon which to act?
Even if it is possible for God to exist without acting, and it is possible for God to act within Himself, the third objection to Schieber’s argument is God’s very nature.
There are recognized aspects to God’s nature that are never exercised unless there is something outside of God upon which to exercise them. Some of these attributes include Justice, Humility, and Mercy. God cannot be just if there is no injustice to address. God cannot be merciful unless there are those who deserve punishment.
The metanarrative of scripture goes something like this: God creates a good world. Free will is necessarily given to the creatures within this creation. These creatures exercise their free will to rebel against God, causing corruption within this creation.
At this point there arises an apparent conflict within God’s nature. On the one hand, God’s love requires him to provide forgiveness and mercy to His fallen creatures. On the other, God’s holiness and justice require him to stamp out evil and provide a reckoning for rebellion.
This seemingly irreconcilable problem is solved within the person of Christ Jesus, who comes in human form and lives a life of perfect obedience of His own free will. As a perfectly obedient human, he freely chooses to credit his perfection to the fallen humans, and to take their place as the subject of God’s justice.
God is able, through this act, to resolve the seeming conflict within His nature and exercise His own perfection.
Consequently, the creation of non-God objects becomes a solution rather than a problem.
The immediate foreseeable objection to this argument will be “If this is the case, then creation was necessary to validate God. God becomes reliant on creation.”
To address this objection one must simply return to the eternality of God. The entire Creation Narrative is eternally extant within God’s perception. His act within creation did never not occur. This is evident in that Christ, an exalted man with the nature of God, is an eternal part of the Godhead. So in this sense, God does share a physical bond with creation through the person of Jesus Christ.