Vlastimil Vohanka has drawn my attention to an article by the American theologian William Lane Craig, which deserves a separate post. Craig, despite the fact he tends to include rather creepy-looking pictures of himself in his published work, is an admirable writer, who generally manages the trick that is essential to good philosophy, of being both clear and difficult at the same time. Here, he raises the question of whether numbers could have been created by God. He says that Christian theology requires us to say that everything that exists apart from God was created by God (John 1:3). But numbers, if they exist, are necessary beings. They thus would seem to exist independently of God. And (simplifying his point somewhat) the number 3 must have existed prior to God’s creating the number 3, which is impossible! "I remember the sense of panic that I felt in my breast when I first heard this objection raised at a philosophy conference in Milwaukee. It seemed to be an absolutely decisive refutation of theism. I didn’t see any way out."
First of all, I'm not sure this raises any genuinely theological issues. Craig should have read Augustine, who says (On the Literal Exposition of Genesis IV, c. 7) 'Six is a perfect number, not because God completed all things in six days, but rather, conversely, the reason God completed things in six days, was because that number is perfect, which would be perfect even if those things did not exist'. Moreover the second part of the verse from John which Craig quotes ("Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made") leaves open the possibility that there are some things which weren't made or created at all.
In any case, the solution that Craig comes up with does not do the trick. His solution is to propose some half-way house between being a thing of any sort whatever, and being a thing to which we are 'ontologically committed' (a favourite expression of his). Thus he agrees that we can 'quantify over' numbers, i.e. admit that there are such things as numbers, but not admit that numbers 'really exist', or that we are 'ontologically committed' to them.
There is a lot I could say about this, including how this is a good example of how pretensions to formal logic completely obscure something that should be quite simple. Here, I will briefly note that this manoeuvre does not resolve the difficulty at all. The first part of John's verse says nothing about real existence, or about 'ontological commitment'. It simply says 'God created all things'. Whether we are ontologically committed to numbers or not, whether they 'really exist' or not, Craig agrees that numbers are things, i.e. that some things (perhaps things that are fictional, or which don't really exist in any strong sense) are numbers. In which case, it logically follows that God created numbers.
Ironically, he says that "The existential quantifier simply serves to facilitate logical inferences." Quite. But then logical inference is what guarantees the move from 'God created all things, and some things are numbers' to 'God created numbers', and that is precisely the inference that creates his problem.
Note that Craig mentions a book by Jody Azzouni, Deflating Existential Consequence: A Case for Nominalism which I mean to read one day, and which will deserve a post or two when I have.