God's Existence and Nature


God’s Existence and Nature
by Seth Brotherton

Part 1 -- God’s Existence

Preliminary Remarks

In order to understand the proofs for the existence of God, we must first understand the first principles of reasoning.

1. Principle of contradiction -- something cannot be and not be at the same time and in the same aspect.

2. Principle of identity -- whatever is is. Everything is identical with itself.

3. Principle of sufficient reason -- everything has a sufficient reason for it existence and being. If something is identical with it’s own existence then it necessarily exist, and it is it’s own sufficient reason. If something is not identical with it’s own existence then its existence is not necessary but contingent, and thus is not it’s own sufficient reason.

As Garrigou-Lagrange said in God: His Existence and Nature,

"To deny the principle of sufficient reason is to affirm that a contingent being which exist, though not by itself, can be uncaused or unconditioned. Now, what is uncaused of unconditioned exist by itself. Therefore, an uncaused contingent being would at the same time exist by itself and not by itself- which is absurd."

Thus to deny the principle of sufficient reason would be to implicitly deny the principle of contradiction.

4. The concepts of potency and act- whatever is in potency is something that does not exist, but could exist. Whatever is in act is something that can be and is in existence. For example, before I started typing, I was in potency in regards to typing, but now that I have started to type I am in act as regards typing.

The First Proof of God’s Existence -- From Change

We observe in everyday life that things change, that is, they make a transition from being in potency to being in act, i.e. from potentiality to actuality. Now, nothing can reduce itself from potency to act. If something could do this, then it would be able to give itself something that it does not have. This is contrary to the principle of sufficient reason, for every transition from potency to act must have a sufficient reason. Therefore, nothing can change itself. But we see that things do change, therefore these new actualities come from beings that are already in act. Therefore, everything that is changed is changed by another.

Now, we know that everything that is changed is changed by another, but what about that thing that changes the thing that is changed? If it also changes, then what changes that? This line of questioning can continue to infinity. So, the question is, can there be an infinite regression in changers? The answer is no. If everything that changed depended on something else to change it, and there was no first changer then everything that changes would receive its change from nothing. Since everything that changes depends on a prior changer, then if there were no first changer, there would not be a sufficient reason for the existence of change.

Thus, if there were no first changer there would be no following changes. But there is change in the world, therefore, there must be a first changer. This everyone calls God, because it is the source of all motion in the world.

The Second Proof of God’s Existence -- From Efficient Causality

We see in the world that certain things come into existence that did not exist before. These things could not have given existence to themselves. If something were to be the efficient cause of it’s own existence then it would have to exist before it exist. This contradicts the principle of contradiction, therefore something cannot be the efficient cause of it’s own existence. Thus, everything that comes into being is brought into being by something else that already exists.

Can there have been an infinite regression of efficient causes? No. Everything that depends on another also depends on the thing that caused that. Thus, if there were an infinite regression of causes (if you considered the infinite regression of causes as a whole, you would see that) they would all be dependent on nothing, which is impossible because of the principle of sufficient reason.

Therefore there must be a First Cause. This everyone calls God’ because it is the source of all existence.

The Third Proof of God’s Existence -- From Contingency

We see in the world that some things are dependent on other things, that is, they are contingent. But everything that is contingent needs a cause to put it into being. There cannot be an infinite regression of causes, because of the above-mentioned reasons. Therefore, we must finally reach a being that is not contingent on any other being, and is thus a Necessary Being.

This being we call God’ because He cannot not be.

The Fourth Proof of God’s Existence -- From Gradation

A. We see in the world that there are different degrees, or grades of perfection.

B. But whenever there are grades of something, there must be a highest, or supreme grade.

Conclusion: Therefore, there must be something that is supreme and infinite perfection.

Proof of A’ -- This is from everyday experience, some are more or less intelligent, or holy, or strong, etc.

Proof of B’ -- When you see grades of perfection you know that some of these grades of perfection are finite and not infinite, because if they were all infinite then there could not be something that is more perfect. Now, things that are not perfection itself had to have received their perfection from something else, i.e. from something that did not receive its perfection. Indeed, beings that have limited perfection are not perfection itself. If they were perfection itself then it would be absolutely impossible to increase there perfection, which is not the case, because anything limited can be increased.

Conclusion: Therefore, every being that is finite in perfection received it’s perfection from a being that did not receive it’s own perfection, but is perfection itself, and is thus infinite perfection.

This everyone calls God’ because it is the most perfect being conceivable, and is the source of all other perfection.

The Fifth Proof of God’s Existence -- From Order

A. We see in the universe that there is order.

B. Wherever there is order there must be an intelligent being causing it.

Conclusion: Therefore, there must be an intelligent being that orders the universe.

Proof of A’ -- Either things are governed by chance or order. There is no middle ground between chance and order. If there is the slightest bit of order in the world there must be a cause of it. Now, we see in the world that all material things are governed by the laws of physics. But law, or any type of constancy, implies order. Law cannot be the result of chance, because in chance, every possibility has an equal chance. But this is not so with law. Therefore, since there are laws in the universe, there is also order.

Proof of B’ -- Since order cannot be the result of chance, it must be intended. But, only an intelligent being can intend something, because only an intelligent being can know what he wants, why he wants it, how he’s going to get it, etc.

Conclusion: Therefore, the universe is ordered by an intelligent being. Everyone calls this being God’ because He is the Governor of the world.

Part 2 -- God’s Nature

What is the metaphysical essence of God?

Meaning of the question -- What is the prime attribute of God that allows our mind to know the rest of his attributes from it.

Answer: Aseity (Latin: aseitas, means "from-himself-ness"). The prime attribute of God must be the very first attribute that is known about him, and it must be the source of the rest of his attributes, in our mind. Now, the very first conclusion about God’s nature, is the first one that follows the proofs of God’s existence. This attribute must be that he is not from something else, but that he is from himself. Therefore, aseity is the metaphysical essence of God.

Some object that our first conception of God must be a positive one. This is false because, as St. Thomas Aquinas teaches, our primary way of knowing about God is by way of negation, that is, denying God attributes that belong to creatures.

Whether God is Simple?

Meaning of the question -- whether God is composed of parts, such as material, or substance and accident, or genus and species, etc.

Answer: God is not composed of parts, and thus He is simple. Whatever is composed depends on a composer to bring the parts into unity. But, God is the First Cause of all things and thus cannot be caused by another. Therefore, God is not a composite, and is absolutely simple. Again, composites depend on its parts. If the parts did not exist then the composite would not exist. But God is the Necessary Being and is not dependent on anything, e.g. parts. Therefore, as God is Absolutely Necessary so He is Absolutely Simple.

Corollary: God is not a body, because all bodies are made up of parts. Therefore, God is immaterial.

Whether God is Perfect?

It was already proved above, in the Fourth Proof of God’s Existence, that He is Pure and Infinite Perfection.

Whether God is Immutable?

Meaning of the question -- whether it is possible that God be changed. An immutable being is one that does not change.

Answer: God is absolutely Immutable. If God could be changed He would have to be changed by another being, and thus He would be dependent on another being. Thus, the First Changer would not be the First Changer, and the principle of contradiction is denied.

Whether God is Infinite?

Meaning of the question -- whether God is unlimited in His Being or limited in His Being.

Answer: God is infinite in His Being. If he were not infinite, His Being could be increased. But, every increase is a change. Indeed, it was shown above that God cannot change. Therefore, an increase in God’s Being is absolutely impossible, which means He is infinite in His Being. Again, whatever has a limit has potentiality, because it is only capable of so much. But, we know that God has no potentiality, because whatever has potentiality can change. Therefore, God is unlimited, and incapable of receiving anything more.

Whether God is Eternal?

Meaning of Eternity -- Eternity is simply, not beginning, not ending, and not being capable of change.

Answer: God is Eternal. He doesn’t have a beginning, because He would then need a cause. But the Uncaused Cause cannot be caused. He cannot have an ending, because He is the Necessary Being, who cannot not be. Finally, He cannot change for the above-mentioned reasons. Therefore, God is Eternal.

Whether there can only be one God?

Meaning of the question -- whether it is possible for there to be more than one being with the nature of God.

Answer: there can be only one God. It was proved above that God is simple, i.e. not made of parts. But this means that He is identical with His nature, otherwise there would be a distinction in God between His essence and His existence and this would result in Him having parts. But there cannot be two beings with the same essence or nature, which is identical with its nature. There would be nothing to distinguish them.

Let me put it in concrete terms: supposing there are two being with the same essence that is identical with its essence, let’s call the first being A’, and the second being B’, and the essence that they are identical with C’. Now, since A’ is identical with its essence, then A’= C’. And, since B’ is also identical with its essence, then B’= C’. Now if A’= C’ and B’= C’’ then A’=’B’. Thus, the first supposed God is identical with the second supposed God and they cannot be distinct. Therefore there cannot be two Gods.

Another proof: It was proved above that God is pure and infinite perfection. In order for there to be to beings there must be some difference that distinguishes them. But Pure and Infinite Perfection cannot differ from Pure and Infinite Perfection. If it could then it would be false to say that Perfection=Perfection, and thus the principle of identity is denied. In order for Pure Perfection to different from Pure Perfection, one would have to be more perfect than the which is obviously impossible. Therefore, there can only be one God.

Corollaries

God is Immense, i.e. has the power to act everywhere, He is intelligent, Good, Holy, Supremely Happy, and Powerful because God is absolutely perfect and all these attributes are perfections.

Seth Brotherton

SethB@prodigy.net


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