Tuesday, 30 November 2010

On the Incoherence of Blaming God (h/t Anselm)

Last weekend a Buffalo Bill called out God when he muffed an easy catch.  I was amused by this twist on the typical, "thank God for the victory".  This is "God has let me down".  But it did lead me to consider attempts to blame God and/or question God's wisdom and, along the lines of the old ontological argument for God's existence, I came to the conclusion that such attempts are incoherent.  Here's why: blaming God or contemplating doing so is to consider the possibility that God has acted incorrectly, i.e., is imperfect and is responsible for some imperfection, Imp1.  In modal terms, it's to consider a world, Wi, in which Imp1 has occurred and in which God is responsible for Imp1.  But God is, by definition,  perfect and so incapable of acting imperfectly, i.e., there is no world in which God has acted imperfectly.  So, either Wi doesn't exist or the agent responsible for Imp1 in Wi is some agent other than God.  Any attempts to blame God must fail as there can be no world Wi in which God is responsible for an imperfection. 

Of course, we're inclined here to respond, "but of course we can consider the possibility of blaming God, just as we can consider the possibility of blaming any moral agent".  What this response overlooks is that God is unlike other moral agents insofar as perfection is part of the very essence of God, i.e., God is perfect not just as a contingency, because God has failed to make any mistakes, but because being perfect is a property that God has by definition of 'God'.  This is not an argument that blaming God is a moral or theological failing, but it's a conceptual or semantic error insofar as it requires assuming that A could do X when the very definition of A entails that X is impossible.

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