Last time, I explained why I don’t think that it is possible for anything’s essence to just be its existence. If that is impossible, then one can’t explain why God is a necessary being by saying that his essence just is his existence.
Is there another way to explain why God is a necessary being? I think there is.
It is important to understand that I am not giving an ontological argument in this post. I am not arguing for the existence of God. I’m assuming the existence of God, and arguing that given that he exists, he must exist necessarily (such that it’s impossible for him not to exist) rather than contingently (i.e. he exists, but it is possible that he doesn’t exist).
The argument works backwards, trying to establish that there is a contradiction in the idea of God not existing, given that God exists.
- God exists and is divine. Premise
- Suppose that God ceases to exist. Supposition for reductio (this is what we’ll show to be imply a contradiction, so to be impossible)
- If God ceases to exist, this is either (a) for no reason, (b) a deicide (God destroys himself), or (c) an annihilation by another (i.e. something else exercises its power to destroy God).
- It is very good that God exists. (1)
- God is all-knowing and completely good. (1)
- It is not possible that God has a motive for deicide. (4,5)
- No one can perform an intentional action without a motive for doing so. Premise
- It is not possible that God commits deicide. (6,7)
- Therefore, either (a) God ceases to exist for no reason or (c) being being annihilated by another. (2,3,8)
- It is impossible that (a) God ceases to exist for no reason. Premise
- Therefore, if God ceases to exist, (c) he is annihilated by another. (9,10)
- It is not possible that God have a motive to allow there to be another being able to annihilate him. (4-5)
- Therefore, it is not possible that there is another being which is able to annihilate God. (12, 7)
- Therefore, it is not possible that God ceases to exist. (3, 8, 10, 13)
One can summarize the argument like this. It is ridiculous to think that God exists and then just pops out of existence for no reason and with no cause. But one can imagine that some being destroys God, or that he destroys himself. However, these imagined scenarios hide contradictions, and so are impossible. But then, given that God exists, he can’t not exist. His existence is necessary, something that is no matter what, and not contingent, so something which could in principle not be. If you believe in God, you should also believe that God can’t not be.
Maybe we need more, though. Though one may grant 10, we haven’t shown why 10 involves a contradiction. Here’s a try at a supporting argument for 10.
- God is omnipotent and omniscient. (=1 in the main argument)
- Nothing occurs unless God intentionally causes or intentionally allows it to occur. (1)
- Suppose that God ceases to exist for no reason. (Supposition for reductio)
- God intentionally causes or intentionally allows himself to cease to exist. (2, 3)
- There is a reason why God allows this cessation of his existence. (7 in the main argument)
- It is not the case that God ceases to exist for no reason. (5)
- It is impossible that God ceases to exist for no reason. (3-6)
The conclusion here (7) is the same as step (10) in the original argument. If we wanted, we could just insert this secondary argument into the main one. But then, we’d have an ungodly long argument.
Here’s the summary of the whole schmeal. If God exists, he can’t not exist. Because, if he ceased to exist, this would be random, his own doing, or the doing of another. But all three of those are impossible, given what sort of being God is supposed to be.
The keystone premise is (7) in the original argument. It plays a role in ruling out all three options. (7) requires that God is a self, an intelligent agent.
Let me end by noting two other great features of this way of argument. First, note that we’ve appealed only to facts about God, not about anything else. So then, God will be necessary because of himself and not because of any other. Second, we don’t need the problematic claim that in God being and essence are the same, to get the desired conclusion.
Are you convinced?