Thursday, December 3, 2009

Existence and God

Existence is the capacity to be. Obviously everything that exists has the capacity to be. This means that everything that exists is contingent upon this capacity including the capacity itself. Any entity lacking this capacity is impossible. The impossible is that which cannot exist. Anything that cannot exist represents an analytic contradiction. A trivial example of such an entity would be a married bachelor.

One of the most profound analytic contradictions is an entity that exists and is both distinguishable from and more fundamental than existence. Such an entity is impossible because for anything to be both more fundamental than and contingent upon existence would be inconsistent with the meanings of the terms fundamental and contingent. The impossibility of all such entities means that the most fundamental thing in existence is existence itself.

Those who believe in a certain characterization of the one true God will generally take issue with this conclusion. This is because these believers regard God as the most fundamental entity that exists. This belief is based on their wholehearted embrace of the following propositions:

1. God exists
2. God is the Supreme Being
3. God is the source of every being that is distinguishable from it

For the sake of this argument let me define a being as any entity that exists and the Supreme Being as that which exists and is not contingent upon any other being. In other words, the Supreme Being is the most fundamental entity that exists.

If God is distinguishable from existence then the Third God Proposition requires God to be the source of existence. However, in the most elementary sense a necessary (though not sufficient) condition for one entity to be the source of another is that the former must be able to exist in the absence of the latter. But it is impossible for anything to exist in the absence of existence. As a result, a God that exists and is distinguishable from existence cannot be the source of existence. This means that for such a God the Third God Proposition false.

If we abandon the Third God Proposition and posit that God exists, is distinguishable from existence but is not the source of existence, then God is contingent upon something distinct from it that is not contingent upon it. This would mean that God is not the Supreme Being, which cannot be contingent upon anything other than itself. In other words, if God exists and is distinguishable from existence, then both the Second and Third God Propositions are false. But without these propositions what we are discussing no longer represents the one true God, thus falsifying the First God Proposition. This means that if the God of these propositions is distinguishable from existence, it cannot exist.

This does not mean there is no entity for which these God Propositions are true. Note that existence exists, is not contingent upon any other being and all other beings are contingent upon it. In other words, though none of the God Propositions are true of any entity that exists and is distinguishable from existence, they are all true of existence itself. This means that God can exist, be the Supreme Being and be the source of all beings if God is existence.

Certain of the theistically inclined contend that God is greater than existence. They typically characterize God as absolute Divinity, Love, Wisdom, Power and Presence. But these properties must exist in order to confer greatness upon God. Yet the premise that they exist means these absolute properties are contingent upon existence, and thus so is any greatness that God would acquire from them. In other words, existence is the source of God’s greatness. This argument is supported by the fact that one of the premises of the original Ontological Argument for the existence of God essentially states that without existence God cannot be the Supreme Being, regardless of its divine properties.

The proposition that if God exists, it is contingent upon existence is a logical tautology. This contingent being is at best a demigod unless this contingency is mutual. However, where God and existence are regarded as distinct beings, the proposition that existence is also contingent upon God is a matter of rationally indefensible faith. This faith-based proposition can only be logically supported if God is existence. In other words, from a rational theistic perspective either existence is God or God is not the Supreme Being.
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