Can God Lie?

I wanted to respectfully disagree with the content of this video from Venaloid:

I want to disagree with the argument and I suppose in the process become God’s Advocate. (Rather than the Devil’s Advocate.) Not to say that I think god exists — spoiler: he doesn’t — but that arguments of this type aren’t entirely productive in establishing that.

The argument in the video, as I understand it, is that if a God is omnipotent then he can do anything. However if God is all-good, then he cannot lie. However that would mean we have identified something that God cannot do, therefore we have a contradiction.

Arguments like this are useful only insofar as we can make sense of the words inside of them. Superficially they seem very straightforward. Omnipotent just means being able to do anything you want. But then what constitutes doing a thing? What’s a lie? Well, it’s some statement that is made by someone who know’s that it’s false in order to make someone believe something which is not true.

If I stand in an empty field and shout an untrue statement, have I lied? (This is the moral analogy of a tree falling in a forest.) Or does my speech have to connect with someone else’s brain for it to count? Or does lying to myself count?

In the same way as the tree falling in the forest question reveals that sound is more complicated than we might intuitively grasp, so is lying. We live in a bottom-up universe. So there is nothing inherent and detectable in the air compressions coming out of my mouth that can be described as “true” or “false” or “intentionally dishonest”. There’s a complex interplay between what’s going on in my brain, the sounds waves I create and the ears and brains of any nearby humans. We call that lying, but it’s a complex construct with some obviously fuzzy boundaries. So treating lying as some platonic ideal for the purposes of determining what is possible for a god to do is just the wrong tools for the wrong job. It’s like asking someone to proof read your English homework by sending them a picture of the thumb drive you put it on.

It also makes no sense in the context of a supposedly omnipotent being whose very thoughts create and define reality. Is it possible for god to say something without instantly altering reality to make that speech true? Can a god engage in a thought experiment? Or does the thinking just create the requisite reality to run the experiment?

I would love to see education that moves us away from this kind of wordplay that brings people out of their armchairs and into the modern world where we have more sophisticated epistemological tools.

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