Based on reader feedback from Monday’s post on the definition of God, presenting a proof for God’s existence seemed in order. Here’s the salient excerpt from a previous post that dealt with the subject.
The first obstacle that must be surmounted is the generally debased state of contemporary philosophy and language itself. Let’s start by defining the key term God, as far as is possible for limited beings.
When Christians–and some theist philosophers like Aristotle–say God, we don’t mean an old man on a mountaintop composing a global naughty/nice list when he’s not conjuring boulders he can’t lift. Such a being would fall into the category of a creature, albeit a powerful creature, existing within the material, temporal order.
What we mean by God is the uncreated, all-powerful, and absolute Being who transcends the created order.
Proving God’s Existence
Anyone who says God’s existence can’t be proven is either ignorant or lying. The deception usually lies in moving the goalposts regarding what constitutes evidence. Materialists are fond of demanding physical proof of God while they themselves required no physical proof for materialism.
The claim that God’s existence can’t be proven contains another subtle a priori bias. It assumes that God exists in the same way that a hydrogen atom, a pencil, or an aardvark exists; that is, contingently within the order of creation. God does not have existence per se. It’s more accurate to say that God is Being. The Bible sees eye to eye with Aristotle here. “I Am that I Am.”
In truth, absolute, uncaused, necessary Being is self-explanatory. The physical universe is more in need of an explanation–both from its origins and at every moment–than the eternal, transcendent God.
Christians are sometimes accused of begging the question by positing a self-necessary Being from the start and declaring God’s existence a fait accompli. That accusation gets the process backwards. Theologians and philosophers start from evidence gathered through observation, experience, and reason and conclude to absolute Being.
The most elegant and time-tested arguments for absolute Being are the cosmological arguments refined by St. Thomas Aquinas. Moderns and Postmoderns will glibly scoff that these arguments have long been discredited. But each attempt to refute the classical arguments from cosmology, such as David Hume’s, is revealed as a straw man under scrutiny.
Here’s a common cosmological argument. An apple ripens on a tree branch. That means the apple had the potential to move from unripeness to ripeness, and that potential was put into act. We can rightly ask where the impetus to actualize that potential came from. Apples aren’t self-sufficient. They need water, sunlight, and a host of other conditions to grow. You can try locating the source of the apple’s actualization in any or all of these contingencies, but that just kicks the can a little farther down the road since water, the sun, etc. all contain potentialities requiring external contingencies to actualize.
Positing that it’s contingent beings all the way down doesn’t do any good. That just gets you an infinite train of boxcars with no locomotive. Such a train would be incapable of motion. Similarly, an infinite chain of contingent causality could never move the apple from unripeness to ripeness.
[Ed. Why not? Because there would be an infinite number of preceding steps that would have to be completed before the apple could ripen. But by definition, an infinite series of steps can never be completed.]
We do see apples that ripen and myriad other examples of actualized potential, yet an infinite chain of contingent beings would be absurd. The only logical conclusion is that a being which is pure act with no unrealized potential is the ultimate source of all being. Since existing potentially instead of in actuality is a limitation on being, that which is pure act must be unlimited being and is therefore Being itself. And that is what Christians call God.
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