Proving God: Part 2 - The Argument From Contingency

For a video explanation, CLICK HERE.

Before we begin, it is important to note that God can be known in a properly basic way by the self-authenticating witness of the Holy Spirit. That is to say, that God can be known solely apart from arguments based upon the conviction of the Holy Spirit.

““Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send Him to you. And when He comes, He will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment:”” (John 16:7-8 ESV). Everyone knows in their heart of hearts that sin is wrong and that there is an afterlife. “He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, He has put eternity into man's heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end” (Ecclesiastes 3:11 ESV).

Even though belief in God is properly basic (meaning it is fully acceptable apart from arguments), nonetheless, there are arguments and evidence that are sufficient to warrant the belief of the existence of God and the beliefs in God’s Word and the Gospel.

Today we will be looking at the Argument From Contingency. This argument was first developed by 17th and 18th century mathematician and philosopher, Gottfried Leibniz. He lived from 1646 - 1716 and was the co-founder of calculus. He came up with the very simple, yet profound question that must be asked amongst us all: “Why is there something rather than nothing?” That is to say, “Why does anything exist at all?” As born again believers, we know it must be due to a transcendent cause; namely, God.

The Argument From Contingency consists of four premises. They are as follows:

  1. Every existing thing has an explanation of its existence. Either in the necessity of its own nature or in an external cause.

  2. If the universe has an explanation of its existence, that explanation is God.

  3. The universe is an existing thing.

  4. Therefore, the explanation of the existence of the universe is God.

Let us look at each one more in depth:

(1) Every existing thing has an explanation of its existence. Either in the necessity of its own nature or in an external cause.

What is the difference between an explanation due to necessity (a necessary being) and one from an external cause (a contingent being)?

A necessary being is a being which cannot fail to exist. It is something in which its nonexistence is impossible. We know this to be God. To be God means to be the highest conceivable being. That which is God cannot be created, nor does it have a beginning. Therefore, it exists due to a necessity of its own nature.

Another example of a necessary being could be mathematical objects. Math and numbers cannot cease to exist because they are not physical; however, numbers are concepts. They are not independent of God.

Now, the Platonist mathematician may argue this because they believe that numbers and perfect circles do not come from God. They believe they are real and abstract objects. This viewpoint, however, lacks rationality.

A contingent being is a being that exists, but will eventually fail to exist. They have explanations that are outside of them and the reason for why they exist. Examples of contingent beings are us as humans. Eventually we will die within our physical realm. Other examples include animals, plants, and stars. All of these things will eventually cease to exist.

Plato, who was an early Athenian Philosopher, held the view of a Demiurge (a god that looks to the forms and fashions of the physical world based upon the model of a perfect circle, numbers, etc.). The early church fathers had rejected this idea of Plato’s Demiurge. Instead, they implanted the forms and fashions of the physical world to come from God. Plato’s philosophy was simply backwards and limited the real God to a false god.

Therefore, if something exists contingently, there needs to be some sort of explanation as to why one of those alternatives are actualized. Someone or something that exists contingently must have reasoning as to why it exists.

This leads us into Premise 2.

(2) If the universe has an explanation of its existence, that explanation is God.

The universe has never always been. Thanks to modern day science (the Big Bang and The Second Law of Thermodynamics) we can see that the universe did in fact have a beginning. For an in-depth analysis of our proof, please see my writing on Proving God: The Kalam Cosmological Argument.

Therefore, since we know the universe had a beginning, we know that it has not always existed in eternity past.

Now, Atheists want to say that “the universe exists by a necessity of its own nature.” This is fallacious thinking because the universe cannot create itself. There had to of been something outside the universe that made its beginning existence and sustainability possible.

A good example would be a soccer ball. Let us say there are two hikers and they find a soccer ball in the middle of the woods. They both come to their rationality and say that someone had made the soccer ball and placed it there. Now, let us imagine the soccer ball is as big as a house. Same thing. What about the size of a continent? Planet? Same assumption. Let us say that the ball was as big as the universe, then what would we say? Well most Atheists would say, “well it’s just there.” This commits the Taxicab Fallacy, however.

The Taxicab Fallacy states that the principle of sufficient reason cannot be dismissed as a hack once you reach your desired destination. Therefore, it doesn’t matter how big the soccer ball is. We can still be rational in assuming that someone made that soccer ball.

Atheists try to give an argument of why the universe should be exempt from its reason for its existence. They may say “it doesn’t matter” or that “it’s irrelevant. The universe is just there.” This is a cop-out. Something cannot be ruled out simply due to size. Nothingness (which literally means a universal negation - literally, nothing!) cannot be the reason for anything. This argument is not at all related to science, for science shows us that the universe had a beginning.

Since we now know that the universe began, we must find out what caused it.

This leads to Premise 3.

(3) The universe is an existing thing.

Now, the Atheist can retrace his steps and redraw his thoughts from premise one. He may say “the universe exists by the necessity of its own nature.” More sophisticated Atheists have not embraced this because nothing that exists that makes up the universe does not exist, necessarily. They all could cease to exist (contingent). Planets will eventually reach a heat death, stars will explode, and galaxies will dissipate. The universe is the collection of all contingent things; therefore, the universe does not seem that it exists necessarily. It is also contingent.

Now, someone may ask, “Well, what about the matter that takes different configurations (stars, planets, galaxies)? Couldn’t matter be necessarily self-existent?” According to subatomic physics, matter is composed of tiny, subatomic particles called quarks and electrons. All of the things in the universe are made up of these tiny, fundamental particles. With this in mind, couldn’t a collection of different quarks have existed before the current ones? It seems insane to think that each quark exists on the basis of necessity of its own nature because quarks are not made up of anything else! If quarks do not exist, matter does not exist.

Let us think for a moment: could the shirt we have on have been made of steel? Yes. Would it be the same shirt? No. It would be a different shirt. Likewise, a universe of different quarks would result in a different universe because they are made up of different quarks.

If quarks exist by a necessity of their own nature and randomly compiled our current universe, then that means they could have been randomly compiled into another universe. The quarks may have been orchestrated in the same way, but they would not produce the exact same universe as the one we have. This shows us that even if quarks randomly made up our current universe, that means that other universes were possible. This reveals that our universe is contingent. It has not been eternal, but both began and came about as one out of an astronomical amount of other universes that could have been formed.

It is important for us to note that whatever is of necessity must be timeless, spaceless, and metaphysical. Some may say it was abstract objects, but abstract objects don’t stand in personal relations. An un-embodied mind, however, can be personal. An un-embodied mind can exist by the necessity of its own nature and create something from nothing if it is a personal agent endowed with freedom of the will Who can choose to create the effect He so desires.

This leads us to Premise 4.

(4) Therefore, the explanation of the existence of the universe is God.

The only logical and rational explanation for the existence of the universe is God. God is an Uncaused, un-embodied Mind that exists within the necessity of His own nature. He is a personal being that desires for all to come to know Him.

“The Lord is not slow to fulfill His promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (2 Peter 3:9 ESV). The Lord has blessed each of us with freedom of the will. He has been long-suffering with us. If we still have breath in our lungs, we can believe He has been patient and wants us to press into His love. We can choose to respond to His call today.

May all of us do so while the Lord is calling. ““Choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord”” (Joshua 24:15 ESV).

Christ is alive and He wants to know you. ““Seek the Lord while He may be found; call upon Him while He is near; let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, that He may have compassion on him, and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon”” (Isaiah 55:6-7 ESV).

Lance VanTine

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