I have enjoyed listening and reading T. J. Mawson’s Philosophy of Religion lectures and notes available through Oxford University. I find his simple review of key topics to be very accessible. And when I combine my typical Mormon background with his logical presentation of important topics, I find some clarity. It also reminds me of what I like about my religion. Today’s properties are omnipotence, omniscience and eternality.
Mawson presents some of the typical definitions and examples of omnipotence that many of us has heard many times. Questions like whether God can make an object that is both perfectly spherical and perfectly cubical at the same time? Mawson will have none of that, and rightly categorizes logical impossibilities as ‘nothing’. It is not a limit on God’s power to not be able to accomplish logically impossible things. He eventually ends with a definition of omnipotence as having all power that it is logically possible to have. He also makes an interesting point that one would need to be omniscient themselves to fully understand what this means.
The definition that is given here is that omniscience means that if something is true, an omniscient being knows that it is true, and if something is false, an omniscient being knows that it is false. Mawson addresses the logical problem of absolute foreknowledge and free will, and I believe rightly sees the clear problem. He also rightly sees that the disagreement often comes down to what one thinks of the eternality of God, and whether He is temporal or atemporal.
What is meant by eternality is that there was never a time when God did not exist, and will never be a time when God will cease to exist. Most will not argue with this, but when it comes to the subject of time there will be much disagreement. This will come down to whether or not we believe that God is temporal or atemporal. To be temporal is to be within time, and to be atemporal is to be outside of time.
For me, there is good reasons to believe that God is within time. Whether this is the free will of man, or an active, embodied and passionate God. One like me will feel that there will always be certain aspects of the future that simply cannot be infallibly known, and to suggest that there is not is almost like the sphere and the cube question.
For others that feel that God is atemporal, they will feel that there is nothing in the future that God does not absolutely know with complete infallibility, because of being atemporal along with being omniscient. But they ought to accept the implications of this.
For me, I like Mawson’s explanations of omnipotence as having all logically possible power, omniscience as knowing the truth of all that is knowable, and eternality as always existing – in an atemporal way.