Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Nonsense Challenges

There are certain challenges thrown against the nature of God which, while of no real intellectual value themselves, seem aimed at throwing certain Christians into a quandary which they don't know how to answer, with the evident hope that such a question will cause a person to lose faith. I handled one of these questions over a year ago, and I thought it was time to handle another.

The question bandied about is:

"Can God make a Square Circle?"

Let's start with a few definitions here:

Square: a plane figure with four equal straight sides and four right angles.

Circle: a round plane figure whose boundary consists of points equidistant from the centre.

Round: having a curved surface with no sharp projections.

Angle: the space (usually measured in degrees) between two intersecting lines or surfaces at or close to the point where they meet.

† a corner, especially an external projection or internal recess

Soanes, C., & Stevenson, A. (2004). Concise Oxford English dictionary (11th ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Now, when comparing things to a square, things like a rectangle or a rhombus have  some of the characteristics of a square, but not all of them.  The rectangle has four right angles, but not four equal straight sides.  A rhombus has four straight sides , but not four right angles.  Other shapes like a parallelogram are four sided plane figures, like a square but lack the four equal straight sides and four right angles.

Likewise, a variant of a circle is the oval, which is rounded, but the boundary points are not equidistant from the center.

So, what's the Point here?

What this indicates here is that if we have a rhombus, a rectangle or a parallelogram, we do not have a square.

Likewise, if the object we have is an oval, we do not have a circle.

The nature of a circle or a square is based on it having certain characteristics.  If we alter these characteristics, we no longer have a circle or a square.

If we add a side, we no longer even have something in this class.  We have a pentagon, not a square.  If we remove a side, we have a triangle, not a square.  If we alter one of the sides of a square so it is no longer straight, it is no longer a square.

So too, if we add a straight side to a circle, it is no longer round.  If we add an angle to a circle, it is no longer round.  If it is no longer round, it is no longer a circle.

The Law of Non Contradiction

The Law of non contradiction, commonly stated is: It is not possible that something be both true and not true at the same time and in the same context.  So, for example, a table cannot be made entirely of wood and entirely not of wood at the same time.

So if something is round, it cannot at the same time be square (because if round is true, then straight is false).  If something is square, it cannot be round at the same time (because if straight is true, then round is false).

The Application

If God creates something in the shape of a square, we call it square because it meets the characteristics of what we call a square.  If what He creates is not in the shape of a square we do not call it a square.

Ultimately the question is phrased to lead people to either claim God "cannot" do something. or else to try to trick them into the position of having to explain how God can do the impossible.  However, it is nothing more than a wordplay, which ignores the fact that a circle and a square have certain things in their own essence which are contradictory to the other (a round object cannot have a straight side.  A straight side cannot be rounded), in order to create an illusion of limitation.

It is because of this that the question is sheer nonsense.

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