Public Challenge To Anyone: Biblically Justify The Omni^4 Claim, And What Do You Mean By God?

I've been waiting for another opportunity to poke holes in the lavish presuppositions folks often bring to POE arguments and this recent banter was just what I needed to get motivated.

To review, the Omni^4 Claim is the idea that the God of the Bible simultaneously possesses the following four qualities: omnipotence, omniscience, omnibenevolence and omnipresence. IOW, that the God of the Bible is all-powerful, all-knowing, all-loving and all-present. As an aside, many people disregard omnipresence as irrelevant to POE arguments, but I thought I'd throw it in there for historical accuracy if nothing else.

Now first off, nearly every single time I see or hear POE discussions, I see or hear the words "Christians say" or similar and I will tell you upfront – I do not care for dogma nor do I care what other "Christians" say, and I've read the Bible cover-to-cover enough times to know where I stand on the matter. Regardless of your belief system, the purpose of this challenge is for you to provide me with scriptural support you think justifies one or more qualities of the aforementioned Omni^4 Claim, in your own words, not some supposed theologian's.

Second, justify your conclusion and put things in proper scope: If you did in fact conclude that the Bible supports one or more of the omni- qualities, on what scriptural evidence do you rest? Next, do you ascribe said quality or qualities to God the Father alone? Or to what most people mean when they used the word Trinity, as in Father, Son and Holy Spirit?

Third, were you strongly unconvinced that the Bible supports any particular point of the Omni^4 Claim? Why?


Related Posts:

Factoring Intelligence Into Assessments Of Morality

28 Comments

  1. Arthur says:

    I don’t know much about the Bible, but all my life I’ve heard about the God of the Bible in the most superlative of terms. By this I mean not only that
    a) He’s the biggest, the best, the most powerful, the most merciful, the most understanding, the most n where n is something positive, that ever existed or will exist; but that
    b) He is all of these things by definition, by virtue of existing, and in fact to imagine that He is, or even could be, any less—that His superlativity is incomplete or contingent in some way—is definitively un-Christian. These superlatives are the terms of His existence. He is the Superlative Superlative.
    All this I have been given to understand, through cultural osmosis.
    Why should Christians care whether or not there is an actual-enumeration-of-features or something in the Bible? They inherit all these ambient cultural understandings as well as the Bible itself and all its exegeticalia. Hell, where does all the new stuff come from—like Raptural stuff, and Mormon stuff, and etc—if Christians are really wedded to the Hard Bible as evidence of the truth of things?
    On the other hand, if Christians aren’t limited to the actual text, what do you gain by asking for Biblical evidence of omnidom?

  2. cl says:

    Hey there Arthur,
    Thanks for stopping by, I was going to email because I’m still intending to get back to you on our FSM discussion. Hopefully this weekend I can sit down and parse through that thread.
    As for this thread, I’d say your “cultural osmosis” is typical, not to mention a clever phrase.

    Why should Christians care whether or not there is an actual-enumeration-of-features or something in the Bible?

    Many, perhaps most “Christians” live by the Bible and only believe what they can justify scripturally. If no such enumeration is possible, from whence did the Omni^4 Claim spring? As far as the Rapture, that’s certainly in scripture.

    On the other hand, if Christians aren’t limited to the actual text, what do you gain by asking for Biblical evidence of omnidom?

    Any potential gains in this discussion will be used to challenge presuppositions made by whoever makes them.

  3. Lifeguard says:

    Howdy, Cl:
    You wrote:
    “If no such enumeration is possible, from whence did the Omni^4 Claim spring?”
    I’m groping through my intellectual attic for my freshman year Introduction to Christian Philosophy class, but I believe:
    “Aristotle + Aquinas = Omni^4 Claim.”
    That’s not to say that the Omni^4 Claim isn’t based at least in part upon scripture, that there aren’t indications that some, if not all of those characteristics are explicitly attributed to God in the Bible, but I think the Claim really came into it’s own when Aquinas synthesized the Aristotelian god with Yahweh.

  4. MS Quixote says:

    Hey cl
    Put me down for O4–though why we would limit it to 4 I don’t understand–ascribed equally to the three members of the Trinity. More support than the following upon request:
    Omniscience: 1 John 3:20 For if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things.
    Omnipotence: Matt 19:26 But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.
    Omnipresence: PS 139: 7-10 Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence?
    If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there.
    If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea;
    Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me.
    Omnibenevolence: Luke 18:19 And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? none is good, save one, that is, God.
    PS-great post, Arthur.

  5. cl says:

    MS Quixote,
    Now we’re talking. Although everyone else introduced interesting angles, you gave me some ammo to work with. Just quickly, I’d say that Mark 13:32 directly challenges your omniscience defense here, because you defined the Trinity as the scope of your claim, yet Jesus clearly says nobody knows the times or dates of the end except the Father, not even Himself.
    As for Matt 19:26, “…with God all things are possible” yet in Hebrews “…it is impossible for God to lie.” Now, I wouldn’t necessarily consider that a contradiction, either, because implicit in the notion of possibility is that something is logically possible. And for God to lie would seemingly violate the all-good part of the claim. Although perhaps a bit naive, the question “Can God commit suicide?” offers some interesting lines of reasoning on omnipotence and its relation to logical possibility.
    And as for Luke 18:19, couldn’t one argue that Jesus is denying goodness?
    I personally don’t have a problem with the omnipresence part of the claim, if by that we mean that God can somehow access consciousness of any point in the universe, or something along those lines.

  6. MS Quixote says:

    “yet Jesus clearly says nobody knows the times or dates of the end except the Father, not even Himself.”
    And I would agree with his statement, but I don’t think it applies to the Trinity. Jesus is the son of God, not God the son. As fully God and fully man, Jesus could very well be speaking from his humanity here, which was not always privy to the full knowledge of the 2nd person of the Trinity (nor could it be), and I think that’s in fact the case here.
    For the rest, I think we would need to start with some definitions. If not, it’s hard to argue this with any success. I’m open to your definitions if you don’t like these:
    Omnipotence: God is able to do all his holy will.
    Omniscience: God knows himself and all things actual and possible, or, God believes all true propositions and no false ones.
    Omnipresence: God is present at every point of his creation with his whole being, yet does not possess size or spatiality, and may act differently in different places.
    Omnibenevolence: God is the standard of good, and all He does is good.
    “And as for Luke 18:19, couldn’t one argue that Jesus is denying goodness?”
    Not certain what you mean here…

  7. cl says:

    MS Quixote,
    As for the omniscience part of your reply, I’m getting a disconnect: Earlier you said, “Put me down for O4–though why we would limit it to 4 I don’t understand–ascribed equally to the three members of the Trinity.” Jesus is a member of the latter, yet clearly showed a limit in knowledge.
    And I agree that definitions are key. I have no problem with your definition of omnipresence, and I’ll have to think on the others for a while.
    What I meant by the Luke 18:19 remark is that couldn’t one interpret Jesus’ remark as a concession that only God (the Father) is good?
    Either way, thanks for the input, it will take some time but I’d like to get many more comments like yours in this thread and one day distill them all to see what we come up with.

  8. MS Quixote says:

    “Jesus is a member of the latter, yet clearly showed a limit in knowledge.”
    I would deny that Jesus is a member of the Trinity. In his divinity, yes, but not with repsect to his humanity. And since his finite humanity cannot contain or fully conceive his divinity, there’s plenty that he would not know: the day and the hour, for instance.
    “What I meant by the Luke 18:19 remark is that couldn’t one interpret Jesus’ remark as a concession that only God (the Father) is good?”
    Got it. I’d agree that someone could arrive at that conclusion, although I’m not sure how they would justify it.
    “one day distill them all to see what we come up with.”
    Until then…

  9. Arthur says:

    “Many, perhaps most ‘Christians’ live by the Bible and only believe what they can justify scripturally.”
    Well, just about all I know about God-fearing folks I learned from reading Religious Literacy, and the basic premise of that book is that
    “Americans are both deeply religious and profoundly ignorant about religion. There are Protestants who can’t name the four Gospels, Catholics who can’t name the seven sacraments, and Jews who can’t name the five books of Moses….here faith is almost entirely devoid of content. One of the most religious countries on earth is also a nation of religious illiterates.”
    This doesn’t keep us from having an unbeatably clear and simple formulation of God’s capacities (He’s Number One).

  10. cl says:

    @ Arthur:
    The quote you cite is spot-on in my opinion..

  11. Arthur says:

    Should I assume, then, that the “many” Christians who “live by the Bible and only believe what they can justify scripturally” live in other countries? But I thought Protestants were the sola scriptura people.

  12. cl says:

    No, because the fact that the “many” Christians you refer to “live by the Bible and only believe what they can justify scripturally” does not entail that they are necessarily correct.

    ..I thought Protestants were the sola scriptura people.

    I’d say that’s incorrect. I would say the term sola scriptura is reasonably applicable to Muslims, Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses for example, wouldn’t you?

  13. Pine says:

    Hey,
    Long time reader first time poster here. I like reading what you have to say over at Daylight so I figured I’d pop in here.
    To your last question CL, I would say no, it is not reasonably applicable to Muslims, Mormons or Jehovah’s Witnesses. Muslims have the Bible (OT) and the Quran. The Mormans have the Bible (OT) and the Book of Mormon. The Jehovah’s Witnesses have the Bible (altered) and always have another black book (a ‘companion’ to the Bible) and other watch tower literature which is relied upon for nearly every doctrine they profess. I suppose we could really stretch things to say the Quran is the equivelent of the NT, as the Muslims pretty much reject that as scripture. However the NT refutes fairly reasonably the additional ‘holy’ books of the other two groups.
    Anyhow, as for your challenge I would say I believe all apply to all members of the Trinity. Though I must confess I am willing to be wrong.
    If God isn’t omniscient, then how do we know our future is secure? What assurance do we have that things will happen exactly as He has declared… that is unless you concede omniscience to declare omnipotence. Then I suppose He could make anything happen the way He wanted to. I normally assume that passages like 1 Peter 1:20 mean that God had a plan from the beginning (or actually before the beginning) to redeem mankind… something He could have only done if He knew ahead of time that we would sin.
    Omnipotent… well, if God can’t do anything, then how do I know if God can do what I ask Him to do? How do I know He has the power to follow through on His promises? If you hold that there are things God cannot do, then how do we seperate what He can do and what He cannot? I think Matthew 19:26 is a good verse to support this. However, and this will be a repeated theme for me, I want to ask if the possessing the capacity to do anything means that you have to do all things to maintain that ability. IE: Simply because I can lift a pen, does not mean that I must constantly be lifting a pen for it to be said that I have the ability. (Apply this to omniscience as well, just because Jesus COULD know all things does not mean He has/had to exercise that ability and actually know all things.) The question then is, can God not be God. It is asked in a million different ways (IE: Can God make a stone He cannot lift? Can God sin? Can God committ suicide? etc.) but the answer is the always the same. No. But why? Only because He Himself has declared that He does not change and CANNOT sin.
    Omnipresence… well if God is not all places or cannot hear all our prayers then how do we know that some of them are not lost? The Bible doesn’t speak of lost prayers. I guess if God doesn’t have the ability to be in all places at once, then He lacks a certain power which would make us have to include Omnipotence as well… actually… I guess if God lacks any of the omni-traits then we have to throw out Omnipotence with it too… Psalm 139:8 gives some insight on this one.
    Omnibenevolence. Not sure what this means. Because most think this means the most good for all. I’m not so sure. Certainly wants the best for all of us, but I believe this is balanced by those things God is not willing to sacrifice. IE: God loves Jim. Jim rapes and murders 40 women. God is not willing to do nothing about Jim’s sin because He is just. God is not willing that Jim should be destroyed because of Jim’s sin. Hence the cross and the sacrifice of Jesus as God’s solution. But let’s say Jim rejects God’s solution. God has allowed Jim to do this because despite the good God would have for Jim, I don’t believe God wanted to make Jim a robot to accomplish that good. Jim then dies and stands before God who judges Jim, as Jim has defied God’s law and rejected God’s plan of salvation for Jim. God is not willing to sacrifice his character or authority or just and holy nature for the sake of the ‘good’ for Jim. So, if you mean omnibenevolence as a characteristic which over-rides everything else about God, then no… maybe I don’t believe that. Galatians 5 talks about the fruits of the spirit. How can we expect Goodness as a fruit to evidence God at work in your life unless the Source (God) is Good?
    Ok that was long (sorry).

  14. cl says:

    Thanks Pine. I also enjoy reading your comments over at DA.
    What I meant by the sola scriptura comment was that each of those particular flavors of believers believe only what they can justify in their own holy books, not necessarily just the Bible. Does that make better sense? Because I agree with what you say. For example, Jehovah’s Witnesses have more than just “scripture,” as you suggest, always some supplementary teaching, i.e. Awake! or whatever it’s called.

    ..as for your challenge I would say I believe all apply to all members of the Trinity.

    Fair enough. How would you parse Mark 13:32 where Jesus clearly says nobody knows the times or dates of the end except the Father, not even Himself? I saw your reply in this regard, but the idea of some sort of on/off switch seems odd to me, if that’s what you meant. If Jesus does not know this, Jesus is not omniscient, yet Jesus is part of the Trinity, right? What do you think of MS Quixote’s comment #8 in the thread? It’s an interesting angle to ponder.

    If God isn’t omniscient, then how do we know our future is secure?

    The logical conclusion would appear to be that we don’t. But I’m not so sure I accept the claim that God is not omniscient.

    If you hold that there are things God cannot do, then how do we seperate what He can do and what He cannot?

    My answer is logical possibility. I ask people, Would you say God could commit suicide? Would you say God could lie? In fact, the Bible says “it is impossible for God to lie” (Heb. 6:18). I noticed you addressed this in your thoughts, too.

    Simply because I can lift a pen, does not mean that I must constantly be lifting a pen for it to be said that I have the ability.

    I can see that quite clearly, but when you say,

    ..just because Jesus COULD know all things does not mean He has/had to exercise that ability and actually know all things.

    I think I see what you mean here: In other words, Jesus wasn’t just “automatically cognizant” of information that required omniscience, for example the number of husbands a particular woman has had. Right? He has “access to” all information, and in Mark 13:32 simply chooses not to access that particular bit of information? Is that sort of what you mean?
    I don’t really have a problem with the omnipresence quality at all. In fact, as I said, I’m not entirely sure I have a problem with any of the omni-qualities, depending on how they’re defined.
    And I see absolutely nothing incorrect, irrational or illogical in your summation of the gospel in your final paragraph. And I don’t mind long responses, unless they’re just vitriolic outbursts, but even those are entertaining now and again. So feel free ’round these parts.

  15. Arthur says:

    I should know better than to try and figure these things out on my own.

    “Many, perhaps most “Christians” live by the Bible and only believe what they can justify scripturally.”

    “Americans are both deeply religious and profoundly ignorant about religion…. here faith is almost entirely devoid of content. One of the most religious countries on earth is also a nation of religious illiterates.”

    Could you tell me how to reconcile these two statements, the first of which is yours and the second of which you consider to be accurate?

  16. Pine says:

    cl:
    I don’t think I really understand how ‘fully God’ and ‘fully man’ actually functions. I also don’t think I fully understand everything about God, or the Trinity, or many things for that matter. I don’t think we are able to know and understand all of these things because these things have simply not all been revealed.
    That said, with what information we are given in the Bible, I believe Jesus existence on the earth as a man was very unique. Although He was God He could die. He could hunger. He could thirst. He could feel pain. The Bible speaks of Jesus lowering Himself when He came to earth as a man. (Hebrews 2:7, Psalms 8:5-6) I believe that in perfect submission to the father, Jesus ‘lowered’ Himself or temporarily chose not to exercise some of his divine traits for the sake of accomplishing the Will of the Father.
    I think this is difficult to comprehend in our society because we view submission as inferiority.

  17. cl says:

    Arthur,
    cl: “Many, perhaps most “Christians” live by the Bible and only believe what they can justify scripturally.”
    Yes, many, perhaps most “Christians” do live by those standards, and that would make them deeply religious for the purposes of this discussion. Does this mean they can’t be profoundly ignorant about their own Bible or religion in general, whose breadth and scope is far above and beyond that of the Bible?
    cl: “Americans are both deeply religious and profoundly ignorant about religion…. here faith is almost entirely devoid of content. One of the most religious countries on earth is also a nation of religious illiterates.” (ital. mine)
    Note that “American” does not mean “Christian,” and either way, can’t an “American” or “Christian” be A) convinced they are living by the Bible and justified scripturally; and B) profoundly ignorant about religion? And in those cases, is not faith entirely devoid of content?
    I did author the first statement, and I do agree with the second statement completely, because nothing therein is mutually exclusive with anything in the first. There is such a thing as zeal without knowledge, and curiously the Bible says, “zeal without knowledge is foolishness.”
    Pine,

    I believe that in perfect submission to the father, Jesus ‘lowered’ Himself or temporarily chose not to exercise some of his divine traits for the sake of accomplishing the Will of the Father.

    I don’t see anything invalid or absurd about that idea when articulated as such, and it actually made me understand both your’s and Quixote’s positions better. In other words, Jesus either temporarily ceded the ability, or, if we go with, “temporarily chose not to exercise some of his divine traits…” then, Jesus didn’t know (verb tense describing the act of ascertaining knowledge) as opposed to Jesus didn’t know (adjective describing the state or condition of being deficient in knowledge).
    Is that sorta what you mean?

  18. Pine says:

    Yes, well sorta. As I am not a divine being and as I have not been endowed with all knowledge I don’t claim to know exactly what a divine being experiences or how they experience it. I think it would be a little absurd to think we have a good handle on what Omniscience is really like, or how it functions for that matter. All we can do is talk about our ‘concept’ of what ‘all knowing’ means and then try to apply this as we shape our opinions about what the Bible states about Jesus.
    The way I imagine it is more of an emptying of Himself to become man, but not emptying to the degree that He could not take up any attribute He desired at any time. So when He didn’t know, He didn’t know, He possessed the ability to know, but simply chose not to know. Not that I claim to have a ‘handle’ on it, but this is just the best my limited understanding has been able to come up with.

  19. cl says:

    I think it would be a little absurd to think we have a good handle on what Omniscience is really like, or how it functions for that matter. All we can do is talk about our ‘concept’ of what ‘all knowing’ means and then try to apply this as we shape our opinions about what the Bible states about Jesus.

    Gets my vote, indeed.

  20. Arthur says:

    I would suggest that Christians who are “profoundly ignorant about their own Bible” cannot be said to “live by the Bible and only believe what they can justify scripturally.”
    Religious Literacy again:

    Evangelical pollsters have lamented for some time the disparity between Americans’ veneration of the Bible and their understanding of it, painting a picture of a nation that believes God has spoken in scripture but can’t be bothered to listen to what God has to say.

    My only point is that the omni-4 formulation might not be as vulnerable to exegesis as you seem to think, especially in light of its knee-jerk appeal.

  21. cl says:

    My only point is that the omni-4 formulation might not be as vulnerable to exegesis as you seem to think, especially in light of its knee-jerk appeal.

    1) Why might the formulation not be as vulnerable to exegesis as I seem to think? Support your claim here.
    2) I wholeheartedly agree with you that the formulation has a knee-jerk appeal. Part of the point of this post was to cast light on exactly that.
    3) That’s not your only point because you were just badgering me about a contradiction that isn’t there. Further support: Many or most “Christians” can only justify a half-dozen or so things from scripture, Arthur. They can still live by those things, and justify them scripturally, and still be profoundly ignorant about the rest of the Bible and the general subject of religion. None of those conditions are mutually exclusive conditions.
    Now, I’m going out on a limb here, but you’re a pretty intelligent guy, and I think you and I both know what I just said is correct. It would do our future discussions far better if you, you know, politely let me capture a pawn here.

  22. Arthur says:

    No, really. That’s my only point. I think I just don’t understand what “live by the Bible” means.
    But I see that I’m working against my own interest, because I too would like to know where the omni-4 claim comes from, and to see if anyone could ever be talked out of such a powerful formulation, once they’ve got it in their heads. I didn’t mean to hold things up.

  23. Pine says:

    I thought the omni-4 claim was established. :P What problems do you still have with it?

  24. cl says:

    Pine,
    If comment #23 is for me, I don’t have any problems with it, really. When I wrote this post, my main goal was to see what verses people would offer to justify the claim, and also to see how those who argued for the claim would respond to Jesus not knowing dates and times. It’s been an interesting discussion, and who knows where it might end up.

  25. cl says:

    Pine,
    If comment #23 is for me, I don’t have any problems with it, really. When I wrote this post, my main goal was to see what verses people would offer to justify the claim, and also to see how those who argued for the claim would respond to Jesus not knowing dates and times. It’s been an interesting discussion, and who knows where it might end up.

  26. Pine says:

    Arthur:
    I want to address what you wrote; “I think I just don’t understand what “live by the Bible” means.” Here is the best way I know how to explain it.
    People criticize ‘living by the Bible’ because of the complex nature of the law and doctrine contained within it’s pages. So, from the outside looking in you’re probably thinking that anyone calling it ‘simple’ is a moron. That is if you view Christianity as a task instead of as a relationship.
    I love my wife. That ‘love’ has expressed itself over the years in many complex and various forms. I have learned much about her likes and dislikes. So much in fact that if I were to write a book about loving her and living in a way that brings her pleasure, it would be quite the impressive volume. Does that mean that loving someone is ‘complex’?
    You see, behind all the laws and the ‘doctrines’ of the Bible is a very simple personal relationship between every believer and God. I believe that is why Jesus was able to sum up all of the law and prophets in two commands (see Matthew 22:7-40). To love (or be loyal) to God in your lifestyle is a very simple concept. If I love God with unshakable loyalty and love everyone around me as much as I love myself… I’ll find that I’m already fulfilling God’s law.
    How do you ‘live by the Bible’? You start with the command to love God first, then to love others as yourself, and then you study God’s guide (IE: the Bible) to learn more about what pleases Him.
    Sorta off topic a little… but it was brought up so… I hope its helpful.

  27. Arthur says:

    Pine,
    Thank you for that. I was really trying to establish something much more remedial: that in order to “live by the Bible” one must study the Bible, or at least make the attempt. I took this for granted, but it sounds like perhaps you agree.
    I’m reduced to disputing cl’s characterization of “living by the Bible”: being able to “only justify a half-dozen or so things from scripture” and being “profoundly ignorant about the rest” seems to me to fall short of “living by” it.
    But I’m way out of my depth on the subject, I admit, and this really wasn’t a thread I meant to get so tangled up in.

  28. Pine says:

    Arthur,
    You said; “I’m reduced to disputing cl’s characterization of “living by the Bible”: being able to “only justify a half-dozen or so things from scripture” and being “profoundly ignorant about the rest” seems to me to fall short of “living by” it.”
    I agree with you for the most part. While I feel it is possible to be ‘living by the Bible’ before you possess all knowledge, the pursuit of knowledge and disciplining yourself to read/study/understand God’s Word should be a mark of a every Christian life. Unfortunately there are far too many who claim to be “Christians” who I wouldn’t even give credit for knowing the half-dozen or so things from scripture it is suppossed they know. These people really don’t care about expanding their knowledge about what the Bible actually says but use religion as a crutch or as a justification for their personal vices. But then, I would argue, can we really say these people are Christians at all?
    If I claim to be a scientist, and yet don’t know the first thing about scientific method, I’ve never taken classes which teach science, I don’t read books about science, I’m not interested in science but claim that as a scientist I feel that science proves geocentricism… would you consider me a scientist who believed in geocentricism or just an idiot spouting my personal opinion under the guise of ‘science’? Why do those who do this to religion get a pass?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *