Logical argumentation is to metaphysics and philosophy what mathematical theorems are to theoretical physics and cosmology. For instance, in the field of quantum mechanics, we have very little hard “evidence” for what we believe to be true, and we may never have observable evidence, yet we do have theorems that prove it to be true, and the science works because of the theorems.
Somewhat similarly, we cannot see the invisible world yet we have logically deductive reasoning to demonstrate the need for its existence. So, to dismiss logical evidence for “God” because we have no physical evidence is tantamount to dismissing the very methodological process we use for a lot of our scientific advancement.
Furthermore, as classical theists have argued, we must have a coherent ontology before we can develop a coherent theology. So, while this subject is a bit technical, it’s important for theists, if not just to understand that we do have a solid logical foundation for what we believe.
This very simplistic attempt to explain the classical theist argument from motion is based on deductive reasoning. And unlike other forms of reasoning, deductive reasoning contains a series of premises which reach a logically certain conclusion. If the premises are valid, the conclusion must necessarily be true.
- It is evident to experience that some things are in motion (actualization of a potential).
- Nothing can be reduced from potentiality to actuality except by something in a state of actuality; whatever is in motion must be put into motion by another (causation).
- An essentially ordered series of movers (in the here and now) cannot regress infinitely.
- Therefore, there must be an unmoved mover (First Cause/Prime Mover).
This Prime Mover is what theists understand to be “God.” As David Bentley Hart said:
“God is that reality which is unconditioned, that reality from everything else in our everyday experience derives its existence. Not really originating from some distant point in the past, such as the Big Bang, but conserving the existence of all conditioned beings at every moment in the here and now.” (From video, “Defense of Classical Theology” here.)
Of course, this is also biblical. Paul quotes the Athenian poets to affirm this understanding:
28 for in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are also His offspring.’ (Acts 17:28 NKJV, emphasis added)
“Motion” in this argument does not refer to change in spatial location or change in time; it means change in potency to actualization in any member of a causal chain in the here and now.
Remember our guitar music analogy (part one). The music is made up of fluctuating sound waves, which are “actualized” by the vibrations of the strings of the guitar, which is actualized by the musician plucking the strings. If any part of this causal chain is inhibited, the music ceases to exist.
And if the thing that put something into motion is not itself in motion, we have arrived at the unmoved mover (First Cause, Prime Mover).
The Prime Mover
Here are the logical requirements for the Prime Mover. I believe it will be clear why this is so in the explanation. The Prime Mover must be:
- Pure Act (fully actualized).
- Because the Prime Mover is the most fundamental source it cannot have any unactualized potentials.
- Immutable (unchangeable).
- Because it must be purely actual, it must be immutable or unchangeable.
- Eternal, Immaterial and incorporeal.
- Because matter exists in space and time, the Pure Act must be eternal (outside of time) and not made of matter (outside of space).
- One, not many: the singular, ultimate source of all motion (simplicity).
- “Because God [Prime Mover] cannot be dependent on other things which would include things that would be ingredient to its nature if he were composite. It would create a principle of unity, which would be a higher ontological principle than the God, because whatever allows for the disparate unity between disparate things is itself a more encompassing reality” (from Hart video interview here).
We will further develop the attributes of this Prime Mover later in this series of posts. Three considerations before we move on:
We see constant states of change (from potential to actual) in nature which is an undeniable aspect of our everyday experience.
There must be a Prime Mover. This is a logical certainty. We cannot have a causal series that creates an infinite regress. This is because nothing can be reduced from “potentiality” (what something can be) to “actuality” (what something is in reality) except by something already in a state of actuality. Otherwise, we would create a situation where everything in the causal chain would cease to exist.
We’re not making an argument for a particular God here. We’re showing that we need a first cause or Ground of Being (Prime Mover) that we call “God.”
Next time we will look closer at the Argument from Being and Essence.