Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Did God ever lack the property of receiving worship?

I spy something non-existent
Mike Doolittle (a.k.a. "The A-Unicornist") suggested three propositions that together imply a contradiction:

1. God is perfect
2. A perfect being needs nothing
3. God needs to be worshipped

Is the Christian committed to a contradiction here?  Two different sets of propositions come to mind:

1) God is a perfect being
2) A perfect being has no desires
3) God desires to be worshiped.  Therefore, God has a desire
4) Therefore, God is not a perfect being

Great-making Properties
1') God is a perfect being
2') A perfect being possesses all great-making properties *
3') God lacks the great-making property of receiving worship
4') Therefore, God is not a perfect being

Both arguments have questionable premises.  Let's start with 3'), which looks to me to be plainly false.  Why is a God that is worshiped greater than a God that is not worshiped?  Can God worship himself and thus instantiate His own great-making property?  Above all, an unstated premise requires defense:
5') Receiving worship is a great-making property.

What is a Great-making property?
A great-making property is a property that is intrinsically good to possess.  "A great-making property is any property, or attribute, or characteristic, or quality which it is intrinsically good to have, any property which endows its bearer with some measure of value, or greatness, or metaphysical stature, regardless of external circumstances." [1]  For example, suppose there is a gunman on the roof of my office building.  In those circumstances, it would be good for me to stay indoors; yet, we wouldn't say that staying indoors is intrinsically good.  We would say that staying indoors is good when there is a gunman on the roof.  Likewise with receiving worship: it is good when there are worshipers and an object worthy of worship.

What if all goods are extrinsic, and thus there there are no great-making properties?  Well, that possibility creates it's own problems.  If all great-making properties are extrinsic then there is an infinite regress of property dependence.  We have another rendition of the cosmological argument which inquires as to where all this property dependence business got started.  I'm sure there are approaches to this problem, but let's dispense with it for now and just assume that there are intrinsic great-making properties.

It looks to me like receiving worship doesn't qualify as a great-making property and thus the argument is unsound on those terms.

What about desire?
Mike D later comments on his post that, "A 'desire' would fill this context, as something that gives something of value to God."

But this is simply reinforcing what 2) already states.  Why shouldn't the Christian agree with 2) and reject 3) (on that reading of "desire" mind you)?  Since Mike D is interested in scriptural definitions:

Can Mike D provide an example from the Bible that necessitates the view that worshiping God confers additional value to God?  

There is a distinction between 'ascribing value to x' and 'being conferred value by x.'  Here's a silly analogy to illustrate the point.  Mike is sitting idly on a park bench, and up strolls the cutest girl that ever walked the earth.  She proclaims to Mike her desire for him to compliment her so that she might give him a little smooch.  Mike responds, "You clearly aren't the cutest girl in the world because if you were then you wouldn't need me to tell you that you are the cutest girl in the world."  

Leaving aside the non-sequitur there, perhaps what the girl intended to express to Mike was more along the lines of, 'In order for you to get a smooch, I must first get a compliment.'  Thinking about this analogy a bit more brings up some interesting debates about the way the Bible describes God-human interaction.  "If you do x, then I will do y."  Well, why not just do y if you're an all-powerful being?  The problem gets more difficult when God is said to be meticulously provident over all creation (was it even possible that ~y?).  There are plenty of exegetical discussions to be had along those lines, but for now it looks like we have good reasons to doubt Mike D's paradox, so I'll leave it at that.  I think his paradox is a fruitful one though, since it brings up so many other discussions.

* I've chosen to avoid crowding up this premise with unnecessary distinctions.  A more precise rendition: God possesses the largest possible array of compossible great-making properties.  An objection could then be raised that there is no such thing as the largest possible array of compossible great-making properties, so God can't possess such a thing (much like saying God can't possess the largest rational number because there is no such thing).  I'm not sure if that particular objection is in the literature, but I've heard a similar objection to the 'greatest possible good' and 'greatest possible world' theodicies.
[1] V., Thomas. Our Idea of God: An Introduction to Philosophical Theology. Regent College Pub, 2002.  p. 35


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