One thing I like about the classical arguments for God is that they’re logically deduced from our everyday experience. And when one fully understand them (which no detractor I’ve heard so far actually does), we see that asking for evidence becomes a silly question because what could be more evident than that some things are changing. Also, the nature of these arguments are such that no new discovery in science or cosmology would be relevant to refute them.
Everywhere we look we see things in motion (going from potential to actual). We might also suspect that our continuing existence implies what would technically be called an essential ordering of causality, a most fundamental motive power that our existence is dependent upon in the here and now (it has nothing to do with whether something has a beginning or not).
This is also a central tenet of Christology, as one of the earliest Christian creeds attests. (This was an oral creed that predates the epistle):
16 for through him God created everything
in the heavenly realms and on earth.
He made the things we can see
and the things we can’t see—
such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world.
Everything was created through him and for him.
17 He existed before anything else,
and he holds all creation together. (Col.1:16-17 NLT, emphasis added)
Here’s a great graphic by Classic Theist from his video, “An Argument For the Existence of God” (I highly recommend the video). This graphic illustrates what we mean when we say “God.”
And this brings us to one more classical argument for God—the Argument from Necessity or Contingency. This argument deals with the question, “Why does anything exist at all?”
Argument from Necessity (Contingency)
This is one of Aquinas’s longest arguments for the existence of God, and one of his strongest. You’ll probably notice how this argument builds upon the prior two we already looked at. It’s explained here, broken down in fourteen logical points, as adapted by Robert Delfino (from video podcast here):
- We find in reality some things that are capable of existing and not existing, because they are found to be generated and corrupt [they pass on or cease to exist].
- We call such beings possible beings.
- A possible being cannot be the cause of its own existence.
- This is so for two reasons: (1) It would already have to exist in order to cause its own existence, but if it already exists then it does not need to cause its own existence, and (2) If it caused its own existence then it would be both prior to itself and also not prior to itself, which is a contradiction and thus impossible.
- Therefore a possible being must get its existence from a cause that exists external to it.
- It is impossible that everything which exists is a possible being.
- The reason is that nothing could have begun to exist in reality if everything were a possible being because a possible being only comes to exist through an already existing cause external to it, which would not exist if everything were a possible being.
- But if nothing could have begun to exist in reality then nothing would have existed in the past and nothing would exist now, because “from nothing, nothing comes.”
- But this is absurd because things exist now.
- Thus not all things are possible beings—at least one necessary being must exist.
- There are two ways for a being to be necessary: (1) it can get its necessity from another; (2) it can get its necessity from itself (per se).
- If it has its necessity from another, then it requires a cause external to it.
- An infinity of beings that get their necessity from another would not explain how anything came to exist, just as it is clear from the above that an infinity of possible beings would not explain how anything came to be.
- Conclusion: There must be a cause that has of itself (per se) its own necessity (i.e., it does not receive necessity from another), and on which all other beings are, ultimately, dependent for their existence. And this we call “God” [again, a nominal label for the conclusion of the argument].
Why can’t the universe be necessary?
Some skeptics argue that the universe could be non-contingent or necessary. But this is logically impossible, as David Bentley Hart explains in an interview with Robert Kuhn in “Closer to Truth” (paraphrased):
KUHN: Why couldn’t physical matter or the universe be non-contingent (absolute being)?
HART: We first must know what it means to mark something out as contingent. Marks of contingency would include a composite nature, extension, temporal, spatial, even the boundedness of laws, and laws are ontologically inert. A law does not create a reality, it merely describes one.
The classical claim is that when you prescind from all the conditions of contingency inevitably what you arrive at has to be something entirely unconditioned, that is not composite, not dissoluble into parts upon which it’s dependent, not a being among beings and therefore dependent upon some larger sphere of actuality, not temporal. As soon as you begin removing the attributes that make for contingency, you’re left with the question of the absolute that doesn’t make room anymore for things like matter.
KUHN: Why can’t it be the laws of quantum mechanics that make matter spontaneously come into existence?
HART: Laws and quantum events exist within realities that are themselves by the same logical calculus, contingent. Quantum events don’t happen in nothingness in the ontological sense. It just means you’re dealing with a prior physical state that is as of yet unarticulated. But that physical state is not a logical necessary reality, or that it would make it coherent to say that it’s a reality that can be considered an absolute.
You can watch the whole interview here.
To be continued…