God is Necessary

By: Brian Cunningham

David Hume once asked, “Why may not the material universe be the necessarily existent Being, according to this pretended explication of necessity?”1  If the universe is a necessary being it would not require an explanation of its existence, it would exist due to its own nature. But does it?

There are many problems associated with the idea of the universe being necessary. First, if the universe is necessary—requiring no explanation—why would the parts of the universe require an explanation? Scientists continuously seek to provide explanations for the parts that make up the universe. For example, scientists can explain how gravity keeps our planet revolving around the sun. Therefore, there is an explanation. And if there is an explanation of this part, then it is not reasonable to postulate there is an explanation to all parts of the universe?

This is where theists claim God is the necessary explanation. However, skeptics will immediately usher in “God of the gaps” objection.2  Therefore, why would God the best explanation? First, by definition God is consistently recognized as having properties unrelated to the universe (i.e. nonphysical properties). He is not subjected to any principle involving causation because He is a necessary being, not a contingent being. No explanation is required for the existence of that which is necessary, only that which is contingent. As a result, God cannot not exist. He is necessarily eternal and dependent on nothing.3

Additionally, God is the best explanation for order found in the universe. Consider the following illustration: In the movie Hoosiers, before the Indiana High School State Championship Game, Coach Normal Dale took his small-town Hickory High School basketball team to the arena in Indianapolis where the championship game would be played. He asked his players to take measurements of the height of the basketball goal and the distance between the goal and the free throw line. Coach Dale told his players that they would find the exact same measurements back in their home gym at Hickory. While the coach was using the illustration to motivate his team, it serves and important purpose concerning our topic. All basketball courts hold these same measurements. Therefore, there is a common blueprint made by a necessary personal agent-or agents-for these specific measurements

Likewise, the universe also has a common blueprint as well that implies a necessary personal agent. Richard Swinburne notes, “Each electron behaves like other electrons…Oak trees behave like other oak trees, and tigers like other tigers.”4  One may posit the laws of physics as the best explanation of order found in the universe, but this doesn’t seem plausible given these laws are not explanations of anything. Rather, they are only mere descriptions of that which is contingent that needs explaining.5  Even skeptics of this argument noted, “We conclude that what is the ultimate explanation for the universe cannot be established from our present knowledge of the world.”6  Therefore, one must look beyond the universe and venture into the metaphysical realm to find a necessary and satisfying explanation.

Finally, God seems to be the best choice for the necessary explanation of the universe because He is the simplest explanation. Many philosophers have consistently held—since Aristotle—that the simplest explanation is usually the best explanation.7  This is commonly known as Ockham’s razor. If one were to deny God as the necessary being responsible for the universe, then one would be left with the task of how to explain that a contingent universe—and its contingent parts—could be related to a physical reality that is eternal and creates order found throughout the universe.

1)David Hume, “Part 9”, Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, assessed March 10, 2017, http://www.gutenberg.org/files/4583/4583-h/4583-h.html

2)Alexander R. Pruss, “The Leibnizian Cosmological Argument,” The Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology, eds., William Lane Craig and J.P. Moreland (Oxford: Blackwell Publishing. Co, 2012), 91.

3)Bruce Reichenbach, “Cosmological Argument,” The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, ed. Edward Zalta (Spring 2013 Edition), assessed March 10, 2017, http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/spr2013/entries/cosmological-argument/

4)Richard Swinburne, Is there a God? (New York: Oxford University Press, 1996), 50.

5)Edward Feser, “The New Atheists and the Cosmological Argument,” Midwest Studies in Philosophy vol. 37, no. 1 (September 2013): 171, assessed March 10, 2017, http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com.prox.lib.ncsu.edu/doi/10.1111/misp.12000/full.

6)Gustavo E. Romero and Daniela Perez, “New Remarks on the Cosmological Argument,” International Journal for Philosophy of Religion 72, no. 12 (October 2012): 113, March 10, 2017, http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11153-012-9337-6.

7)Alan, Baker, “Simplicity,” The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2013), ed., Edward N. Zalta, assessed March 10, 2017, http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/fall2013/entries/simplicity/.

References   [ + ]

1. David Hume, “Part 9”, Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, assessed March 10, 2017, http://www.gutenberg.org/files/4583/4583-h/4583-h.html
2. Alexander R. Pruss, “The Leibnizian Cosmological Argument,” The Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology, eds., William Lane Craig and J.P. Moreland (Oxford: Blackwell Publishing. Co, 2012), 91.
3. Bruce Reichenbach, “Cosmological Argument,” The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, ed. Edward Zalta (Spring 2013 Edition), assessed March 10, 2017, http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/spr2013/entries/cosmological-argument/
4. Richard Swinburne, Is there a God? (New York: Oxford University Press, 1996), 50.
5. Edward Feser, “The New Atheists and the Cosmological Argument,” Midwest Studies in Philosophy vol. 37, no. 1 (September 2013): 171, assessed March 10, 2017, http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com.prox.lib.ncsu.edu/doi/10.1111/misp.12000/full.
6. Gustavo E. Romero and Daniela Perez, “New Remarks on the Cosmological Argument,” International Journal for Philosophy of Religion 72, no. 12 (October 2012): 113, March 10, 2017, http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11153-012-9337-6.
7. Alan, Baker, “Simplicity,” The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2013), ed., Edward N. Zalta, assessed March 10, 2017, http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/fall2013/entries/simplicity/.

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