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Argument:

If God is the Creator, He cannot be perfect. For either God created the world desiring it or not desiring it. If he did not wish it, it implies that he does not have total control over his actions, therefore he is not perfect. If he wanted to, either the creation suited him in the long run or not. If it didn't suit him, then he lacked something that suited him, then he wasn't perfect. If it didn't suit him, he has acted against his ultimate interests, so he is irrational, and therefore not perfect.

How can I counterargument this?

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    What is "suited him" supposed to mean?
    – eques
    Jun 7, 2023 at 0:11
  • Is this in reference to Genesis? It's well discussed that Genesis doesn't seem to depict a perfect God. He makes a creation that falls, he kills everything and regrets it, etc. If this argument was inspired by Genesis, then replying to it in isolation doesn't help.
    – user3961
    Jun 7, 2023 at 12:43
  • @fгedsbend It would not be a perfect creation that had no choice, but was forced to abide by God's will and remain "perfect." The very fact that Mankind had the option of falling, and was not forced, but actually did fall is actually the greater evidence for God's perfection and love.
    – Biblasia
    Jun 7, 2023 at 13:36
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    This at best argues that God is imperfect; it certainly does not argue that God does not exist as suggested in the title. You'd also need the premise that "If God exists, God is perfect" to conclude that. Jun 7, 2023 at 20:00
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    "If it didn't suit him, then he lacked something that suited him" I take it you mean "If it did suit him"? Jun 8, 2023 at 3:35

8 Answers 8

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The original argument says:

If God is the Creator, He cannot be perfect. For either God created the world desiring it or not desiring it. If he did not wish it, it implies that he does not have total control over his actions, therefore he is not perfect. If he wanted to, either the creation suited him in the long run or not. If it suited him, then he lacked something that suited him, then he wasn't perfect. If it didn't suit him, he has acted against his ultimate interests, so he is irrational, and therefore not perfect.

Let's parse this argument into formal logic:

Premises

  • P1: God created the world
  • P2: God created the world => God desired to create the world OR God did not desire to create the world
  • P3: God did not desire to create the world => God does not have self-control
  • P4: God does not have self-control => God is NOT perfect
  • P5: God desired to create the world => Creation suited God in the long run OR Creation did not suit God in the long run
  • P6: Creation suited God in the long run => God lacked something that suited Him in the long run
  • P7: God lacked something that suited Him in the long run => God is NOT perfect
  • P8: Creation did not suit God in the long run => God is irrational
  • P9: God is irrational => God is NOT perfect

Deductions

  • D1: God desired to create the world OR God did not desire to create the world (from P1 & P2)
  • D2: God did not desire to create the world => God is NOT perfect (from P3 & P4)
  • D3: Creation suited God in the long run => God is NOT perfect (from P6 & P7)
  • D4: Creation did not suit God in the long run => God is NOT perfect (from P8 & P9)
  • D5: God desired to create the world => God is NOT perfect (from P5, D3 & D4)
  • D6: God is NOT perfect (from D1, D2 & D5)

The argument is logically valid. The question is whether it is sound. To attack the soundness of this argument, one needs to call into question its premises. In particular, I find Premises 6 and 7 questionable. Why should we accept that, if something suits God, then God must lack something, and therefore God must be imperfect? Why can't something suit God even if God doesn't lack anything? These premises seem arbitrary, and they are based on implicit assumptions about the meaning of the concepts something suiting God, perfection of God and God lacking something. Notice there is also an implicit assumption about God's relationship to time (a philosophically controversial topic), as the argument talks about the creation suiting God in the long run. What exactly is meant by all these concepts, and why should we accept these definitions?

In sum, you can reject this argument by expressing your skepticism toward its questionable or unsubstantiated premises, until the arguer offers compelling reasons to accept them (or fails to do so).

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    Good breakdown. This is essentially the ancient/classical argument against the fact of creation (it says nothing about God) by citing the inability for what is perfect to change. Resurfaced during the re-exploration of the Greeks by the civilized Arab world in 11th-13th centuries... Jun 7, 2023 at 18:43
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    Just a related comment on premises 6 and 7: "in the long run" implies the existence of time. In my experience, when the existence of time itself becomes part of a discussion, our ability to logically reason about whatever topic is at hand becomes wholly inadequate. Considering God's nature outside the confines of creation/time is a very high thought, as high even as the heavens are than the earth.
    – elmer007
    Jun 7, 2023 at 20:30
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    Nice use of formal logic, +1 Jun 12, 2023 at 1:31
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Mark had a good answer, to which I will add a separate angle.

The word "perfect" can mean essentially two things in English:

  1. Flawless/pure; and
  2. Complete/finished.

It appears to me that the question conflates these, claiming or implying that because God's creation was not completely finished (#2), God is not without flaw (#1). But these are two different things, and the question itself is what is flawed.

Consider: A "perfect" child Jesus was not yet "complete" according to Luke 2:52, for he continued to grow, learn, and develop.

And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man. (Luke 2:52, KJV; cf. vs. 40)

Development (increasing) does not imply imperfection.

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Even as a heathen atheist and cultural Jew I can see the problem with this. Any argument based on "God is perfect" presumes that we're able to judge what perfection is. The argument you quoted is based on an arbitrary definition of perfection deliberately chosen so that it would not be consistent with some actions that God purportedly took.

I believe logicians would call this a strawman argument.

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    The irony of man defining what is his Creator's idea of perfection.
    – SLM
    Jun 8, 2023 at 3:11
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    Also known as hubris.
    – Barmar
    Jun 8, 2023 at 3:40
  • C.S. Lewis called this 'putting God in the dock'. Jul 30, 2023 at 11:38
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I would ask him first, "How do you know that God is not perfect? What he is doing is making "an argument from silence." One cannot make a positive assertion of truth based on what is NOT said.

In short, his argument is "fallacious." There are a number of verses that claim God is perfect. Psalms 18:30, Deuteronomy 32:4 and one more, 2 Samuel 22:31.

Even Jesus Christ is identified as perfect and sinless according to 1 Peter 2:22, and at John 1:14, "And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, FULL OF GRACE AND TRUTH." Ask him to reconcile his opinion with the Scriptures.

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    I think it should be clear that someone who finds fault with God will find fault with the Bible, and would not be inclined to accept the scriptures as authoritative--hence there would be little point in asking him or her "to reconcile his opinion with the Scriptures."
    – Biblasia
    Jun 7, 2023 at 15:41
  • Look Biblasia, why are you straining at "gnats?" The poster ask how he can counter the question he was ask. All I did was tell him what I would do and your objecting? I didn't know you had the ability to know the operation of one's mind. Now, you brought up Jesus as a boy who was not yet complete so answer me this question? As a boy was Jesus perfect and sinless even from His mother's womb?
    – Mr. Bond
    Jun 7, 2023 at 21:07
  • "For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him." (2 Corinthians 5:21, KJV)
    – Biblasia
    Jun 8, 2023 at 2:12
  • @Biblasia So what is your point of quoting this verse? I'm asking your what the verse means to you? It means to me that Jesus Christ is sinless because it explicitly states, "who knew no sin." Or to put this another way, God treats the sinless Christ as though He were a sinner in a legal sense. Romans 8:3-4 "For what the law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did; sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin. He condemned sin in the flesh." Vs4, in order that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us etc."
    – Mr. Bond
    Jun 9, 2023 at 0:01
  • The verse is clear that Jesus never sinned. If he "knew no sin," he cannot have sinned at any point in time during his life, including his childhood.
    – Biblasia
    Jun 9, 2023 at 0:04
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The argument never addresses the possibility God intentionally created a world that suits him. It leaves this option completely open. It just so happens this is the result Christians claim. Furthermore, the omission is meant to be obvious. Clearly we live in a flawed and broken world, and how could a perfect and powerful God allow that? This actually attacks the Christian worldview as so absurd as to not even be worth mentioning or considering.

A more modern way to view this restates it like this, to state the issue explicitly:

If God is good, he is not God. And if he is God, he is not good.

The existence of cancer in children is also often brought up as a common case-in-point. A child has not sinned. How could a perfect God allow such a thing to happen to a sinless person? He must be either powerless to stop it or a participant in making it happen.

Ultimately, this is the problem of how we deal with suffering.

My answer has to come in two parts: one to address the specific and one to address the abstract.

I'll start with the specific. While I can go several directions making abstract arguments for the general problem, that's not helpful in the moment. For the person dealing with suffering right now, I don't want do anything other than be present with them and offer comfort. It's important to make that plain first. When suffering happens, all the other lofty logic we might produce is counter-productive and calloused.

Having stated this, the context we have right now is more of an abstract question, inviting us to respond on that axis at length. Still, I prefer brevity and I'll reframe the problem one final time in order to keep this short. We can reduce it down to this:

Why didn't God create a perfect world?

It is fundamentally the same issue as first posed, and we can answer like this: "He did. Twice." The world as it was first created was perfect. It was only after mankind brought sin into the world that we had any death or suffering. A child has cancer not because of their sin, but because they were born into a corrupted and sinful world. One could argue this itself is a flaw, but the Christian can respond even this was also part of God's plan from the beginning, that the world will be redeemed and anyone who wishes can be with God in Heaven, where there will be no sin, no suffering, and the joy there is so far greater than any previous suffering as to render it meaningless.

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  • "The argument never addresses the possibility God intentionally created a world that suits him." I think it's pretty clear that in "If it didn't suit him, then he lacked something that suited him", the "didn't" is a typo. Jun 8, 2023 at 3:36
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Personally I like the reasoning of Leibniz. In short, his argumentation goes like this: God is omnipotent, so He can do whatever is possible. He is also good, so He created the world as good as possible. So, whatever we may not like about the world, whatever we would call “less than perfect” about the world, still is the best possible world.

The argument is not undisputed. It has been ridiculed by other philosophers and for a Christian it may be a bit problematic to accept the idea that even God can not do the impossible. But it is an interesting philosophical idea, I think, that resembles things you can find in Holy Scripture. For example, when Job calls God to answer for all the wrongs God has done to Job. God doesn’t explain himself to Job, He doesn’t stand trial. On the contrary, He questions Jobs right to call God to answer for Himself.

In a way, that is what Leibniz says in a more modern philosophical way: we can think something is evil or wrong in the world, and that is Gods fault, but who are we to question God? If this is the world created by God, we must assume and accept that this is the world as it should be, the best possible world.

(see also: https://www.britannica.com/topic/best-of-all-possible-worlds )

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The argument cited in the Question looks like an elaborated version of the age- old riddle: " Can God create a stone so big that he himself cannot lift ? " . In fact Genesis only says that God saw the things created by him as 'Good' , and not as 'Perfect.' If the universe , with all the living beings in it, has survived so far, it is because it has incessantly been rejuvenating itself through the process of living and dying. One cannot just wish away death if one wants the universe to be rejuvenated. Agreed that it is sinful for human beings to kill one another. But, animals have formed a cycle of consuming one another for food, as a part of their programming. So, if God allowed his creation to die in order to pave way for newer generations , and let His Only Son die for ensuring eternal life of humankind, it should only be seen as an outcome of His Infinite Wisdom, something incomprehensible by human standards !

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Since the story from which this argument is derived says that God created us, and the world we live in, on purpose, the argument of self control is moot. So, this ultimately boils down to a question of perfection in his creation. The contention would be that either his creation was ultimately imperfect due to an unintentional imperfection in his design, else his design itself was deliberately imperfect to facilitate the great Bible story of redemption. Both views would suggest an imperfection in design, and, by extension, an imperfection in the creator of the imperfection.

However, the behavior of sentient beings after their creation has no bearing on the quality of the creation itself. He created good and perfect life in a good and perfect world. Everything from the extraordinary ecology made possible by the oceanic currents, to the biology of the eye, and even to the superior planets whose gravity protects the earth from most significant debris from deep space, all show the grandeur of the perfection of God’s creation.

It was man who rendered himself less than the perfection of his creation. The same source from which the initial argument is derived also teaches that the son is not guilty of his father’s sins, nor the father guilty of his son’s. Each man’s sins are his own. Why blame God for the choices man made of his own accord?

People are fond of “passing the buck.” That’s all that’s happening here. The argument is essentially abrogating man’s responsibility for his own downfall and passing the blame onto God. “We all suck. But it’s not our fault. God made us this way.”

Hogwash!

So, your counter argument, for starters, is to stand on the grounds of man’s responsibility. No atheist can deny the reality of free will. If you can get them to admit to man’s own culpability in his imperfect condition, your argument is practically won. The secondary counter I would personally offer is to put them on the spot to demonstrate imperfections in creation that don’t have to do with the choices of sentient beings. Babies born with AIDS, for example, aren’t a creation defect. It’s an unfortunate result of a chain of events that began, at some point, with an unwise decision. Have them prove the imperfection of creation, rather than positing imperfection based on the choices of the created.

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