The Being of God

“Nor do I seek to understand so that I can believe, but rather I believe so that I can understand.” (Anselm, Proslogion, Chapter 1)

I have already shared Anslem’s argument for the existence of God in Proslogion here . However, this is only one version of the proof for God’s existence. Many people will argue that Christians a foolish lot because they believe. People scoff at the quote above and say, “See, there is no rationale to Christian belief.” They miss the point of the quote altogether.

When we discuss the existence of God we had better do it with a humble heart and not with a “when-pigs-fly” attitude. So many people who write off the existence of God, do so from pride. They claim that there is not sufficient evidence for something you can’t see. Like the wind, the eye cannot see, but oh does it feel the effects of a hurricane!

If you do not believe that God does not exist, you had better read these posts with a desire to believe. As Anselm said above, we need to have the disposition to believe rather than thinking that God’s existence is on the same level as believing a kangaroo has a pouch.

I say all this as prologue because the existence of God is not the same as the existence of anything that is seen with the eye. First and foremost, by definition God must exist. He is eternal in being. Humans are not. Nor is the Easter Bunny.

The answer to my dangling question: Where did the molecules come from that “produced” the Big Bang? Now I do not seek to deny a Big Bang. Rather, I want to show that God must exist. As has been said in the “Comments” section, something never comes from nothing. That is, being comes from Being. In order for something to exist, it must derive its existence from something that is not dependent.

In other words, if you go back infinitely before any Big Bang happened, there had to have been something before even the beginning of this Creation. One would not find nothing as they look back into eternity. Otherwise, where did all this come from? Therefore, there must be something that has existed from eternity past. This is what English calls “God” and Spaniards call “Deos” and Greeks “Theos” and others another name. Something must always come from something else. Therefore, all things belong to and exist because God exists and created all things. If he does not exist, we cannot exist.

This is the difference in speaking of whether there is soup in the fridge or not. All you would have to do is open the fridge. But with the existence of God, he must exist. We are dealing with apples and apples when we try to compare creation to the Infinite, Foundation of Existence. God must exist for there to be anything at all.

Some Other Links:
Tisthammerw Explanation
Bibliography of the Argument
Wikipedia Article
Stanford’s Philosophy Site
Various Ontological Arguments

10 Comments

Filed under Apologetics

10 responses to “The Being of God

  1. When the background microwave variation was proven there was a lot of exciting talk in physics circles. One word that kept creeping up at symposiums was the word “creation”. It didn’t last, but it is interesting to note that even hard science folks such a theoretical physicists used the term.

    I wanted to tahnk you for making your comment and noting the connection I was making between Santa Claus and Christ. I hope it sparks some conversations not only on the blog, but also in familes.

  2. Thanks for the comment. You’re right. It is interesting to see that physicists were using the word “creation”. It is also noteworhty that many many biologists and physicists use the word “design” when referring to what they are observing. Stephen Hawking has gone so far to say that although the world looks as though it is designed, we must continue to believe it is not. Very confusing language don’t you think? He is committed to evolution and attempting to explain away God. Like I said in this post, the existence of God is not a matter of believing if there is a cracker in the cupboard, because the entire world does not depend on this truth. However, because God is by definition necessary we must speak of his existence with fear and trembling.

  3. Deep stuff!

    I love knowing God exists. It brings such joy and comfort. And it makes nature such a treat! I look at the beauty and think! Wow! He did that for me!

  4. Matthew,

    You wrote, “In order for something to exist, it must derive its existence from something that is not dependent.”

    This is traditionally the first premise of the cosmological argument (both the traditional and the kalam). Usually, people accept this premise and deal with subsequent ones (e.g. that there cannot be infinite regress, etc). I don’t know if even this first premise can be maintained.

    In the first sentence, you are possibly making a category mistake. You say that “something” that begins to exist must have a cause. You, then, switch “something” to “the universe.” The problem, here, is that it may be inappropriate to treat the universe in the same way you treat something in the universe.

    For example, let’s say that I have a number set in this form: [2,4,6,8 . . .]. From studying “inside” the set, I draw the conclusion that everything is two counts away from the next thing. My statement is perfectly valid inside the set. Two is two counts from four, four is two counts from six, etc.

    But the rule that is valid within the set is not necessarily valid of the set itself. Let’s say that my set above is in a list of sets. Set 1 is in the form [1,2,3,4 . . .], the set I mentioned above is Set 2, the next set in the list, Set 3, is in the form [3,6,9,12 . . .].

    Now, I extracted a rule from set two that says everything is two counts away from the next thing. If I applied this rule to the set itself, however, my statement would not be true. Set 2 is neither two counts away from Set 1 nor two counts away from Set 3.

    This, however, is exactly what you are doing when you say that since you go from the statement that “In order for something to exist, it must derive its existence from something that is not dependent,” to the implied statement that the universe is “something” and must derive its existence from something that is not dependent.

    Let me try to be more clear. If I asked you to prove your statement, “In order for something to exist, it must derive its existence from something that is not dependent,” you would have to appeal to things inside the physical universe. You might say that a hurricane is caused by ocean temperatures, etc. Your statement is a physical statement that relies on induction and relies on physical laws.

    The problem comes when you try to apply natural laws to the universe itself. You are doing the same thing that I did with the number sets above. You are finding a rule that is true inside the universe (i.e. “the set”) and saying that it must apply to the universe itself (i.e. “the set” itself). There is no way to prove your statement, though. There is no way to prove that a rule inside the set (i.e. the universe) applies to the set itself.

    Let me try another way of explaining this. I saw this “ball” in a toy store the other day. It is made of plastic pieces on joints. If a child pulled on the joints, the ball would begin to expand. The ball keeps expanding to a rather large ball and can retract to a small, dense ball. The inside of the ball is hollow.

    Many physicists believe the universe is similarly “ball-shaped.” What you are doing is taking a rule that is true inside the ball and applying it to the conditions outside the ball. This may not, however, be the case. The outside conditions may be entirely unlike the inside conditions.

    Let me try a hypothetical. Let’s say that the universe did begin, but it began inside something I will call a “yniverse.” A yniverse is a type of meta-universe.

    Let’s say that the physics of the yniverse is very different from the physics of our own universe. First of all, there is no indication that a yniverse had a beginning. It is like what some physicists used to call a “steady-state” universe.

    Now, imagine that the physical laws in that yniverse allow for things to come into existence without a cause (I think we already made clear that your statement that something requires a cause is a statement that is true only because of our physical laws in our universe). So, in this yniverse, a universe can come into existence without any cause. If this were the case, our universe, because it is a part of another “set” with different rules, can come about without a cause at all.

    I’m not saying that this is what I believe happened, but I’m simply pointing out that just because it is the case that everything that comes into existence within the universe has a cause that does not mean that the universe itself had to have a cause. You cannot assume that a law at play within a set is true of the set itself.

    Your argument falls apart if the first premise cannot be maintained.

    But, you are also guilty of another assumption that seems incorrect.

    You have a view of time that is not shared by science. Time is space-time for physicists. In other words, you don’t have time without a universe. You, however, are talking about a time “before” the universe. This is a physical impossibility. There can be no space-time without “space.”

    Your request to “go back infinitely before any Big Bang happened,” doesn’t make any sense because time as we know it does not exist “before” the Big Bang. It is not until there is a universe that you have time. There is, therefore, no “before” the universe.

    In order to maintain your position of a “before” the universe, you will need to completely redefine in new terms. You will have to assume that Einstein’s theory of relativity is false. Good luck with that.

    That said, I did enjoy your post. I hope that I am not coming across in a mean-spirited way. I enjoy the dialogue.

    I look forward to your response.

  5. in response to bleedingisaac’s first point:

    the universe is the sum of its parts. the universe is simply a name for everything that we know exists. if you were to apply your logic and say that the universe might not necessarily need a cause, then you’d simply be saying that the sum of everything that exists doesn’t need a cause. which is to say that nothing in the universe needs a cause. what you say about the universe you also say about everything in the universe.

    if the universe does not need a cause or did not begin to exist, then what is it–a supernatural being? how do you define the universe? is it not “something”?

    in response to your second point:

    i think what Matt means by “before” the universe is: before there was time; outside of time, if you like. in that sense, not necessarily before, during, or after the universe, but outside of it. in another dimension, on another level of existence. i agree that in our universe we have space-time. without physical matter there is no time as we understand it and live in it. but just because there is no space-time does not mean nothing can exist. i believe God exists outside of time. he can participate in time and space when he chooses to but his existence is not bound by them. he was the one who gave being to physical matter and therefore to space-time.

  6. Sorry it has taken me so long to respond. I am in the middle of preps for next week as I have a difficult class to cram into one week! Trying to get my readings done and working 50 hours this week. I share that so you understand my tardiness in response.

    I have really appreciated the comments. Here is my reply to bleedingisaac:

    Thank you so much for your desire to speak honestly and openly about this. It takes guts and I really appreciate that. I would love to continue the dialogue.

    In my post, I am actually arguing for God’s existence via the proof of Ontology. That is, nothing never comes from nothing. OR: something must always come from something. My contention with Darwinian macro-evolutionary theory, which has ballooned into some attempt to explain the existence of the world, breezes over the fact that there is something from which we can make observations. The theory merely posits the fact that proteins and molecules existed in history. It never explains where the physical molecules and entities came from. Sadly, our generation has bought the package without checking the contents.

    When we speak of the First Cause, we must distinguish between two types of First Causes. Aquinas taught a First Cause that was Chronological. That is, God is the one who set things in motion. The problem with this is that 1) there can be many First Causes, like millions of particles colliding at one point in history and 2) once the system has been set in motion, the First Cause isn’t needed any more.

    The second type of First Cause is a Logical First Cause. That is, when we knock over a set of dominoes, the flick of the finger can be the chronological First Cause…
    but the table on which the dominoes rest is the Logical First Cause. If there were no table in the first place, there would have been no falling of the dominoes. When we speak of God, we must understand him as being the Logical First Cause. As goodwillhiking has commented already, God is outside of space-time. He is not bound physically, nor rationally by our observable world. He is altogether other.

    You spoke of the entire universe as being a ball that can expand and such. You are right…we cannot exhaustively understand that which is outside the ball. I contend that God is outside the universe, yet he is also intimately involved in every action-reaction within it (the Logical First Cause).

    I sympathize with your concern with taking principles observed within a certain set and trying to apply them to another. For example, to say that each individual drink on the table tastes good, we cannot then conclude that if we mix all the drinks together that beverage will taste good. Ronald Nash gives an excellent answer to this foundational argument you have:

    Though many objections look good at first glance, second and third glances have a way of showing that what may have appeared as a solid structure is really a house of cards. The fallacy of composition is what philosophers call an informal fallacy. In the case of informal fallacies, one must pay attention to more than the form of the argument (in this case, reasoning from the parts to the whole); one must consider the content of the argument.

    Sometimes one cannot reason from the parts to the whole; but sometimes one can. It all depends on the case. Consider a new example. Suppose it is true that every individual brick in a wall has the property of being red. Given this fact, one would be correct in inferring that the wall is then red. Here is a situation where a property of each part turns out also to be a property of the whole. What this shows is that reasoning from the parts to the whole is not always mistaken. Anyone who claims that all reasoning from the parts to the whole is fallacious is committing a different fallacy known as hasty generalization. (Ronald Nash, Faith and Reason, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1988).

    I do appreciate your comments and look forward to your response. The existence of God is not a matter that we can just sit in our LaZBoy and talk over. It is something that will dramatically change our lives. My first premise still stands. All that is observable in our universe is dependent on something. If one says that they are dependent on things within the universe only, then he must answer the question of contingency.

    Let me end this response with three bullets provided by Nash in Faith & Reason

    1. Due to the principle of sufficient reason (PSR) which is the belief ‘that there is some explanation for the existence of anything whatever, some reason why it should exist rather than “not”‘ For anything that exists or is the case, the PSR states that there must be a reason or an explanation” (p. 126)

    AND

    2. “Contingent beings have their sufficient reason in something other than themselves.” (p.127)

    AND

    3. “A necessary being…is the complement of a contingent being” (p.128)

    As J.L. Mackie says:

    Nothing occurs without a sufficient reason why it is so and not otherwise. There must, then, be a sufficient reason for the world as a whole; a reason why something exists rather than nothing. Each thing in the worldis contingent, being causally determined by other things: it would not occur if other things were otherwise. The world as a whole, being a collection of such things, is therefore itself contingent. The series of things and events, with their causes, with causes of those causes, and so on, may stretch back infinitely in time; but, if so, then however far back we go, or if we consider the series as a whole, what we have is still contingent and therefore requires a sufficient reason outside the series. That is, there must be a sufficient reason for the world which is other than the world. This will have to be a necessary being, which contains its own sufficient reason for their existence, and this must be found ultimately in a necessary being. There must be something free from the disease of contingency, a disease which affects everything in the world and the world as a whole, even if it is infinite in past time. (p.128)

  7. Matthew,

    Thanks for the spending time on your response. I’m sorry I won’t have time to continue the discussion as I’m going back to work tomorrow.

    Let me offer a few brief thoughts:

    You wrote: “I am actually arguing for God’s existence via the proof of Ontology. That is, nothing never comes from nothing.”

    I’m a little confused by your terms. Ontology is simply the study of the nature of being. The ontological argument really has nothing to do with Darwinism or science. It is a pure philosophy that argues for the existence of God from the necessity of being. There is no statement of the ontological argument that sounds anything like “nothing never comes from nothing.”

    Your statement, “something must always come from something.” is the one I take issue with. That statement is a law derived from occurences within the universe. My contention is that it cannot be properly applied to the universe, per se (though it certainly can be applied to things within the universe).

    I’m not aware of anyone who thinks Darwinism “explain[s] the existence of the world.” Physicists have attempted to explain the existence of the universe in terms of Big Bang cosmology, super-string theory, steady-state, etc., but no one believes that the universe began by Darwinism.

    You are right that Darwinism, “The theory merely posits the fact that proteins and molecules existed in history. It never explains where the physical molecules and entities came from.” Darwinism doesn’t attempt to touch that argument. They leave that for the physicists who have attempted to account for the existence of proteins and molecules. In my opinion, they have done an excellent job doing so.

    But let’s say physicists haven’t come up with a good theory of where molecules and proteins come from. Is saying “God did it” any better? Seriously, if we had not been socially conditioned with this idea of a “god,” it would sound as odd to us as if someone were to suggest that pink unicorns created molecules and proteins. “God” is simply not an answer. It is an attempt to fill a gap.

    The way you describe Aquinas’ position is foreign to me. I read a lot of Aquinas in seminary and he never sounded as Deistic as you suggest here. I think your point is that Aquinas’ theory in itself only leaves one with a Deistic-type god at best. That I would agree with.

    You wrote: “You spoke of the entire universe as being a ball that can expand and such. You are right…we cannot exhaustively understand that which is outside the ball. I contend that God is outside the universe . . .”

    This is exactly my problem with many of the Christian arguments I see bandied about. Whenever there is a lack of an answer, a Christian appears to think they have supplied an “answer” by saying “God did it.” This is a non-answer, though. It just doesn’t hold water. This is what I spoke about in my Intelligent Design post above.

    You wrote: “My first premise still stands. All that is observable in our universe is dependent on something.”

    I don’t see how the premise can stand when it is drawn from induction inside the universe (a set) and applied to the universe itself. You have given no indication how this is allowable. Cause and effect and dependency and independency are defined by physical laws that are not at work if there is not a physical universe.

    Nash wrote: “the belief ‘that there is some explanation for the existence of anything whatever . . .”

    Even Nash admits that his is THE BELIEF that “there is some explanation for the existence of anything whatever.” I actually agree with his belief for things inside the universe. My contention is that this can’t be applied to the universe as a whole.

    Anyway, you a free to have the last word here. I’ve got to take a break from it all for a few months.

    Thanks again.

  8. There are a lot of good “head” arguments for the existence of God (and CS Lewis was excellent at using them), but I prefer heart arguments.

    There is something within me that lifts at great beauty. Majesty is something I recognize, though it may be difficult to define. Biut I can share examples. A long walk in the Redwood forest will provide it. Or some sunrises, or cdertain vistas, or even a few things seen through a microsope.

    The word is numinous. A sense of awe.

    Why do humans have this sense?

    There are other proofs as well.

    It may be wise to consider that science, though I love it greatly, has an inherent flaw.

    It works only on things that are measurable and repeatable. It may be that there are many things that are neither. Much of the non-western world thinks so.

    On another note, I see you have a link to Credenda Agenda. What a great read!

  9. bleedingisaac,

    I am really enjoying our dialogue and I hope that it has been as helpful for you as it has been for me. I really appreciate your honesty. Here is my response:

    The ontological arrgument and the cosmological argument overlap. This may be the reason for the confusion. I am arguing for the need of a necessary being based on the fact that all things in the visible universe are contingent beings. Everything in the observable universe is contingent. This is obvious. The burden of proof is on you to show an instance where there is reason not to believe that everything in the universe is contingent.

    I think you might be mistaken regarding the fact that the ontological argument does not state that nothing comes from nothing. By virtue of being (existence) must originate from another being, this shows that all things in this contingent universe is dependent on the being of another. If you take the entire universe as a ball…there is Something that exists outside of the contingent…this is God.

    Your statement, “something must always come from something.” is the one I take issue with. That statement is a law derived from occurences within the universe. My contention is that it cannot be properly applied to the universe, per se (though it certainly can be applied to things within the universe).

    I fail to see why you have such a problem with this statement. For you to write off the fact that everything that makes up the universe is contingent does not lead one to conclude that the universe as a whole is contingent does not make sense. One must draw up multiple hypotheticals that cannot be tested in order to say that the parts do not make up the whole (as pertains to the contingency of the universe).

    Like I cited from Nash’s book, we can conclude that if we know that every brick in a wall is red, we can rightly assume that the wall is red. You are right to bring up the fact that there are instances where the parts do not make up the whole – i.e. every drink on the table is good, therefore all the drinks mixed together will be good does not always follow. There is context that we must factor into the equation.

    The reason I am bringing up the relationship of God’s being with Darwinism is not so much due to the fact that I believe Darwinism seeks to explain the origin of the universe. It has to do with the fact that Darwinism pushes the existence of God to the side so that he is not seen as necessary. Although it does not attack God’s existence head-on, it precludes it. A belief in Darwinism demands an unbelief in God. For more on this see this article and commentary (a href=”http://www.crosswalk.com/news/weblogs/mohler/1371145.html”) on it for further discussion.

    With this in mind, I am also seeking to show that physicists have got it wrong as well when they seek to explain the existence of the universe apart from God’s existence. This is why I ask the question as to where the particles and flashes of lightning they hypotesize for the creation of the universe came from. They have no answer. And this where the Ontological argument of God’s being as necessary overlaps with the Cosmological argument. Where do the particles and lightning come from? They must come from something and we see this from that which is observable in our universe.

    You seem to commit the same problem you have with Christians. That is, you place your faith in theories (not facts, mind you). You may say that God being the cause is a theory based on your presuppositions, but you still must concede that phycicists also theorize.

    Like I said, the burden of proof rests on you. You continue to say that we cannot conclude something about the whole from the parts. I have shown that you can (red bricks). There doesn’t seem to be a solid reason for you to marginalize and write off God’s existence. You suggest a universe that operates on different cause and effect relationships. We must not try to hypothesize to the extent that we do not have from our own understanding of the universe around us. We are seeking to understand the universe we live in and not theorize about how the yniverse operates. From all the available data, where are we led to?

    I am stacking bucketson top of themselves to point to the fact that there is sufficient reason to believe in the existence of God (go here for more). There is no open-shut case for the existence of God. We have pointers…and prima facie belief from birth to death. I hope this response has made clearer my understanding of God’s being and its link to contingency in the universe…and for the universe as a whole. Again, how do things come to be? Where did the material universe come from?

    I will close with a quote from Stephen C. Meyer in Signs of Intelligence regarding what you call a “God of the gaps” [by the way, this book is wonderful! I recommend checking it out of the library or buying it!!):

    Design theorists do not infer design just because natural processes cannot explain the origin of biological systems, but because these systems manifest the distinctive hallmarks of intelligently designed systems – that is, they possess features that in any other realm of experience would trigger the recognition of an intelligent cause. For exammple, Michael Behe has inferred design not only because the gradualistic mechanism of natural selection cannot produce irreducible complex systems, but also because in our experience irreducible complexity is a feature of systems known to have been intelligently designed. That is, whenever we see systems that have the feature of irreducible complexity and we know the causal story about how such systems originated, invariably intelligent design played a role in the origin of such systems. Thus, Behe infers intelligent design as the best explanation for the origin of irreducible complexity in cellular molecular motors, for example, based upon what we know, not what we do not know, about the causal powers of nature and intelligent agents, respectively…

    Design theorists infer a prior intelligent cause based upon present knowledge of cause-and-effect relationships. Inferences to design thus employ the standard uniformitarian method of reasoning used in al historical sciences, many of which routinely detect intelligent causes. We would not say, for example, that an archaeologist had committed a “scribe of the gaps” fallacy simply because he inferred that an intelligent agent had produced an ancient hieroglyphic inscription. Instead, we recognize that the archaeologist has made an inference based upon the presence of a feature (namely, high information content) that invariably implicates an intelligent cause, not (solely) upon the absence of evidence for a suitably efficacious natural cause (Stephen C. Meyer, “Word Games” in Signs of Intellignce, William Dembski and James Kushiner eds. Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, 2001), 116-117; original emphasis).

  10. I like Lonergan’s proof. There is knowledge. Therefore, God exists.

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