Many arguments have been put forth in an attempt to prove the existence of God. Each of these has in one way or other sought to demonstrate that God’s existence is either logically, metaphysically, morally, or factually necessary. A quick perusal of these attempts leaves one with the impression that none of them has succeeded in accomplishing its goal without in some way begging the question that it was seeking to prove.
Anselm’s Ontological argument seeks to make existence a perfection that would necessitate that the fact that we can conceive of a perfect being must mean he actually exists. The argument “from” design assumes that order in the universe equals design and then moves rapidly to a designer. The phenomenon of morality is alleged to necessitate a lawgiver despite the fact that we do not know who gave law to him. And on it goes.
It seems that any characteristic of the universe that we feel can only be explained by an appeal to the existence of God, must itself become a characteristic of God for which there is no explanation. If the universe needs a God to explain why it exists, does not God also need such an explanation? If we can accept that no such explanation exists for God, then why posit a God at all? Why not just say that the universe possesses this characteristic without explanation rather than posit a God who in turn needs some explanation?
If order in the universe must be explained by reference to God, what explains the order of his being? Must not he also have been designed since he is an ordered being? We have already said that positing God as the source of morality does not explain where he got the moral law. In the end, it seems that all we can say is that things exist, are ordered, and that the existing ordered state of things is also a moral system. All this can be said without positing God as an explanation. Since he would in turn need an explanation, positing his existence is not a solution to the question of reality.
As Terrance Penelhum has pointed out in “Divine Necessity,” the only way we could see God to be a necessary being is if he is a ‘factually’ necessary being, the one who as a matter of fact has always existed and has created all else. But the universe itself does not require such a being in order to exist. It could very well be factually necessary itself. The only way we could affirm God’s existence it seems is for him to reveal himself concretely so that we would know that he exists.
It is certainly not my intention to put forth another argument to prove conclusively that God ‘must’ exist, but I do wish to ask some questions about the nature of reality that I think have some curious implications in reference to this issue. Before asking these questions I want to set before our minds the two positions regarding the origin, or at least the intrinsic nature, of the universe.
The first view, which is most held to today, is the naturalistic view. This position holds that the universe is essentially a giant cosmic machine and that everything has been evolving and progressing on the basis of the laws of cause and effect from endless time past. Admittedly many scientists who do not seem to understand the implications of the word “beginning” are scurrying about to explain the existence of the universe scientifically, starting from a specific point in time. But this attempt is nonsense because the thing could not have “begun” without some external energy to begin it.
The purest form of the naturalistic view logically posits an eternal universe progressing through time which had no beginning. One of the biggest difficulties for the naturalistic view is to explain the emergence of personality. Personality as we will use it here is understood to be characterized by the possession of consciousness and libertarian freedom of the will. (Of course a thorough examination of compatiblist versus non-compatiblist views would need to be carried out before the view we are now assuming as the correct view could be accepted.). The naturalist has no explanation for the emergence of a phenomenon which puts itself up against the machine of the universe and becomes an uncaused cause of events.
The emergence of such phenomena in the naturalistic view (and emergence it must be since both naturalism and common knowledge does not allow us to believe that any man has always existed) must be a ‘mystery,’ totally unexplained in terms of the impersonal machine of the universe. It is with this mystery in view that we now recognize the second position regarding the origin, or at least the intrinsic nature, of the universe. This is the personal view which sees personality to be intrinsic to the universe. It understands that whatever is a characteristic part of the universe now must always have been a part of the universe since the natural laws of cause and effect cannot explain the emergence of an element completely ‘other’ than that of which the natural universe consists. It is believed by this view that the presence of personal beings in the universe can only be adequately accounted for by positing personality, and hence God, as intrinsic to existence.
At first this seems to be the most logical solution. But upon more critical examination it becomes apparent that it is open to the same criticism as the naturalistic view. The fact of there being a personal being who has always existed would satisfy that ‘he’ now exists but this does not solve the problem of the ’emergence’ of new personalities. Although the natural laws do not account for the emergence of consciousness and libertarian freewill, neither does the fact of a personal being explain this phenomenon. Personality is ‘something new’ in the universe every time a person emerges into existence. The only explanation that could be a ’cause’ of such a new thing would be ‘creation out of nothing.’ But this view must be as mysterious as the idea of personality simply emerging out of nothing without any cause at all. The process of creation itself is no more explainable than is the idea of the impersonal giving birth to the personal.
Thus it appears that to posit a creator is no more of a solution than to simply admit that the personal emerges from the impersonal ‘mysteriously.’ Or is it? It is true that the process of creation must be a mystery to us if such a process exists. But the concept itself is not entirely inexplicable. It bears many elements that seem necessary if an explanation of the emergence of personality is to be gained. In the case of naturalism it is a ‘totally’ unexplained phenomenon by definition because it goes against all natural law and speaks of ‘something more.’ It is a ‘new thing’ where no new thing should be able to occur since the universe is a causal machine.
But here is the crux of the matter. Personality and true libertarian freedom is free from the machine. Creativity and spontaneity are intrinsic characteristics of personality. This means that personality can bring about a ‘new thing’ by reordering the machine to its own ends. Thus the emergence of personality, this ‘new thing,’ could only be explained by appeal to another personality able to create this personality ‘out of nothing.’ This does not explain the mystery of creation but it does explain the idea of ’emergence’ out of the machine. Libertarian freedom of the will is a phenomenon which each of us experiences. Every day we ‘create new things.’ Admittedly, we create by the means available to us by using materials, and not by creating out of nothing. But create we do. And what we create is a ‘new thing,’ uncaused except that our freedom is the cause.
Because of its mystery element many people would choose to deny we are truly free. But if we admit such freedom then we are already admitting the mystery of emergence. Creation out of nothing may be another such mysterious ability of a free being greater than ourselves. But in this case the mystery is ‘How can a person do what they do?’ and not ‘”How can the impersonal do what only persons can do?’ We have never observed creation and uncaused causation except in the context of personality. ‘New things’ only come through personal creative freedom and this we observe every day. We do it ourselves. In view of the above, then, I would ask the following questions.
How are we to account for personality and freedom? If we acknowledge such freedom, is not this freedom the emergence of personality in an impersonal causative machine? Which is more reasonable, to believe that the universe simply ‘gives itself’ personality, or that this ‘creative’ phenomenon has its cause where all other empirically observed creative phenomena have their cause, from the creative freedom of a personal being? If personal creativity is the more reasonable explanation for the emergence of personalities, what personal being could be the cause of other persons coming into being?
Copyright 2019 Kel Good. This publication may be copied freely as long as no alteration is made to the text. For more information write: Kel Good via What I Believe This Week (www.whatibelievethisweek.com)