He begins with this definition of God:
“A being conceived as the perfect, omnipotent, omniscient originator and ruler of the universe, the principal object of faith and worship in monotheistic religions.”
which is essentially a composite definition that links to this definition from reference-dot-com and it is a reasonable definition that even I will agree with. Mr. Brain points out, in something of a category error, that the definition is accepted even with the “quibbles” in the various denominations.
Then, he jumps to this:
What if you were to simply think about what it would mean if there were a perfect, omnipotent, omniscient originator and ruler of the universe? Is it possible for such a being to exist? Epicures thought about it in 300 BCE, and he came up with this:
“The gods can either take away evil from the world and will not, or, being willing to do so, cannot; or they neither can nor will, or lastly, they are both able and willing. If they have the will to remove evil and cannot, then they are not omnipotent. If they can, but will not, than they are not benevolent. If they are neither able nor willing, then they are neither omnipotent nor benevolent. Lastly, if they are both able and willing to annihilate evil, how does it exist?”
I think that he is referring to Euthyphro’s Dilemma, which is something I’ve discussed here, but just to highlight the problem that is apparent in raising the question is that it was originally posed in a polytheistic system, with gods who operated with a defined scheme and existed within the kosmos, or world system. To attempt to push the question into a monotheistic system, especially Christianity, is simply a category error because the God that is described in the Bible exists outside of the world system, thereby operating under a different scheme. One might can ask the question, but, logically, it doesn’t apply because God doesn’t create evil, He simply uses it to fulfill His ends and intends to “annihilate evil” at the end of time, as John the Revelator wrote:
Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. (Revelation 20:11-14, ESV)
That statement kinda undoes this statement from Mr. Brain:
In other words, if you sit and think about who God is supposed to be, you realize that such a being is impossible. Ridiculous, in fact.
But let’s deal with this little jewel about God’s provision. After quoting (or misquoting rather) from Matthew 7:7-11, he makes this statement:
The impossibility of God is visible here as well. Based on Jesus’ statement, let’s assume that you are a child and you are starving in Ethiopia. You pray for food. What would you expect to happen based on Jesus’ statement? If God exists as an all-loving, all-knowing and all-powerful parent — a “father in heaven” — you would expect God to deliver food to you. In fact, the child should not have to pray. Normal parents provide food to their children without their children having to beg for it. Yet, strangely, on planet Earth today we find tens of millions of people dying of starvation every year.
I believe that all along, I’ve tried to make points about taking things in context and using solid exegesis as well as avoiding using the biblical text as proverbs, and following the argument, also the nature of prayer, something I’ve dealt with here. The point that often gets missed in modern bibles, that are often laced with topical headings, which are helpful, but in using them the context is lost. That particular passage from Matthew is a part of an argument that doesn’t have to deal with prayer, rather it deals with compassion. The conclusion of the argument is not v.11, it is v.12, which is known as “The Golden Rule”:
“So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 7:12 ESV)
Then there’s this:
Another way to approach the impossibility of God is to think about the concept of omniscience. If God is omniscient, then it means that he knows every single thing that happens in the universe, both now and infinitely into the future. Do you have free will in such a universe? Clearly not. God knows everything that will happen to you. Therefore, the instant you were created, God knows whether you are going to heaven or hell. To create someone knowing that that person will be damned to hell for eternity is the epitome of evil.
God’s knowledge isn’t based in the same system that human knowledge is, in experience. God’s knowledge is based in His being and in His decree. That knowledge doesn’t defeat the concept of human free will, if what is meant is a compatibalist type, but more than likely what Marshall means is libertarian free will. If human beings have libertarian free will, then God is subject to our whims. Scripture is clear that is not the case, there is what God wills and what man tries to do. Man is slave to his sin nature, slave to his passions, slave to the whims of his desires, and if God did not constantly exert His sovereignty over His creatures, limiting their ability to act in their sin, man would most certainly destroy himself, something that can be seen in such inhumanities as the Nazi Holocaust against the Jews, Stalin’s bloodlust, and the Killing Fields of Cambodia. When God, in His wisdom, which is knowledge without experience, steers man, especially men whom he has regenerated through HIs Spirit, there is peace.
Then, there’s this final, schoolboy jab:
Here is another way to understand the impossibility of God. If you look at the definition of God, you can see that he is defined as the “originator and ruler of the universe”. Why does the universe need an originator — a creator? Because, according to religious logic, the universe cannot exist unless it has a creator. A believer will say, “nothing can exist unless it is created.” However, that satement immediately constructs a contradiction, because we must then wonder who created God. For a believer the answer to that is simple — “God is the one thing that does not need a creator. God is timeless and has always existed.” How can it be that the everything MUST have a creator, while God must NOT? The contradiction in the definition of God is palpable.
Actually, if we consider the premises of the cosmological argument, the universe needs a Creator. Something that exists outside of the universe, separate from time, space, and matter, all of which comprise this universe, that is incredibly powerful, to not only call the particles that compose that atoms from which this universe is built, but to stabilize and hold them in place in order for the protons, neutrons, and electrons to arrange and begin to form what would eventually become the universe in which we exist, as well as personal, in order to choose to will to create. Marshall tries to turn the argument for a Creator onto the Creator, by saying, “ However, that satement(sic) immediately constructs a contradiction, because we must then wonder who created God.” That would be true if Christians believed in a “created” God, as Professor John Lennox explains in this video. Christians believe in an eternal God. The very first words of the Bible, the first verse of the first book simply state,
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. (Genesis 1:1, ESV, my emphasis).
Notice that the Bible is clear, God preexisted the universe. God, speaking through the prophet Isaiah, states,
“I am the LORD, who made all things,
who alone stretched out the heavens,
who spread out the earth by myself,
who frustrates the signs of liars
and makes fools of diviners,
who turns wise men back
and makes their knowledge foolish,
who confirms the word of his servant
and fulfills the counsel of his messengers[…]”(Isaiah 44:24b-26a, ESV)
No other book of religious texts make such a claim (OK, the Quran does, but only because it is dependent on the “Torah and the Gospel” to verify its claims, so we can’t really count it), the gods of other religions appear post-creation and are dependent upon the created order for their existence in some way.
So, if God is impossible then we shouldn’t be here by the same measure, something that the math behind the chances of this universe starting on its own maintains. The heart of Marshall’s argument is dependent on a category error(s), something that we all accept anyway: that created gods are imaginary. Fortunately, that is not the God that Christians believe in anyway.