Necessary Being is not Impossible

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It seems to me that the accurate position of the Christian (or any other theist) is that it is necessary that God possess some contingent property or other, but there is no particular contingent property that God possesses necessarily. Am I going in the right path, or am I missing some important aspect of your argument? Thank you for taking the time to read this. (letter to William Lane Craig)[1]

....I'm always running into atheists who try to argue that necessary being is impossible. The other day I saw an atheist on a message board who was wondering "why do Christians mess around with this absurd idea of God as necessary? Why don't they just say God is contingent, it's so much more logical since God in the Bible is contingent?" In trying to clarify this mystery for him he plunged deeper into the unknown and asserted that a necessary God can't exist becuase being necessary would mean he can't create or do anything. Intrigued by this bit of whimsy I had to find out why. The logic is pretty straight forward: If God creates something he becomes creator. If he becomes creator then his status as creator is contingent upon his having done it. That makes God contingent: The argument might look like this:
....The problem is this is totally wrong, in fact he's wrong on both counts: it would be absurd to posit that God is contingent, then he wouldn't be God anymore, and it would be it is false to say that God become contingent if he does an act. Psalm 90:2 declares: "Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the whole world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God." God is eternal. While Colossians 1:16 says: "For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him."
....In other words, God is eternal and creator of all that is. That means all that is is contingent upon God who has always been, thus having never been created and not being dependent upon other things God is not contingent but necessary. God's necessary status is not only based upon being NON-contingent but upon being necessary to all that is as the lynch pen and origin of it's existence. This has been the basic Christian concept since before Christianity: the Hebrew faith had it first (Genesis 1:1 for example). The one major thing that sets God of the Bible apart from all other concepts of God is the fact that it is based upon God as necessary and all things as contingent upon God. Zeus and Thor and Ishtar and all the gods of mythology are contingent, they are all produced by parents or the abyss or some such thing that preceded their existence and brought them into being. Not so with the God of the Bible he is the one and only God-figure who is necessary creator, non contingent himself but maker of all that is. It would be a super idiotic move to bail out of the whole tradition and render God on a par with all the godages of mythology who have only recently found new fan clubs.
....It's also wrong to assert that action makes God contingent. In all the message board fracases of which I've been apart I've gathered three basic concepts of contingent: that which can fail or cease to exist; that which is dependent upon something else (ontologically higher up the ladder of hierarchy) for its existence, or that which is not contradictory if the term is substituted for another. This last one is the counterpoint to logical necessity: All husbands are married men is a logically necessary sentence. If you change the terms; all Texans are married men, it becomes a matter of empirical nature. Perhaps only married men do live in Texas, we have to go check. But the concept of "married man" is descried as "husband" thus all husbands are married men and we know that just by knowing the meaning of the word. Yet this last version of contingency can be ruled out because we are not discussing the ontological argument thus I have not argued that God's existence can be understood from the nature of the terms. The other two versions can be collapsed into one thing: that which can cease or fail to exist, does so because the conditions that make it so could have changed or could change in future. So really contingency is basically about dependence for existence upon something else.
....Once we understand this we can see that God can't be contingent. If he was that would make him a creature then he would not be form everlasting to everlasting nor would he be the creator of all things. He would be mere demiurge. The creator of God would be God and there would still be a God so the atheist's purpose in argument would still be frustrated. Moreover, the doing of actions such as creation does not render God contingent. This argument really depends upon treating treating contingency like a virus. If God is contingent in one respect, such as his title as creator, then he becomes wholly contingent. That's only a title. God's actions do not make him what he is. His actions are an extension of who he is they dont' determine who he is. Contingency is not like a disease that spreads to the whole being. God's actions are contingent, they are contingent upon God's essence as necessary being.
....The atheist letter writer addressing William Lane Craig, speaks of contingent "proprieties" of God (at the top). I don't think contingency is a property. Its' a mode of being. It corresponds to the modal operators, such a necessity and contingency. In this case it's not the mode of being for God himself, not his essence, that thing that makes him what he is, his divine nature, but the mode of being for his title as creator, for example. So God can be contingent in title as creator but so what? Had God not created he would still be. The things he created would not be but he would still be. Therefore, God does not become contingent being if he becomes does contingent acts.
.... The standard concept for which I argue is always that God is being itself not merely "a being." This concept would help us here too. To the letter writer, Craig could have said (if using this concept) that since he acknowledges that some form of being must be that basic acknowledges God since God is the term we take to the concept of being itself or the ground of being. That is what is being expressed "Bede Rundle's position that it is necessary that something or other exist (namely, some physical Universe or other), but nothing in particular exists necessarily." That does not exclude God if God is being itself. IF God is a particular localized being, one of many then it might exclude him but how could it exclude the ground of being?

[1] Letter to William Lane Craig, "Must Some Contingent Being or Other exist?" Q and A Reasonable Faith website URL:
The issues with Craig's letter are much more complex then the one's I present here.


Jason Pratt said…
On the other hand, an actively self-existent independent fact of all reality, upon which all other facts of reality depend for existence, would be eternally self-generating in an intentional fashion, a self-begetting and self-begotten singular reality.

In other words, God would be both necessary and uniquely contingent by being contingent upon God.

Binitarian (and trinitarian) theism is the only theism that coherently proposes such a reality, and it solves a number of either/or conceptual problems.

It's also what we ought to expect if we already have reason to choose in favor of some kind of theism over any kind of atheism (or so I have argued here and the subsequent two entries.)

Metacrock said…
aspects of God are contingent but they are not the divine essence. For example the title "creator" is contingent (upon God's creative act) but that doesn't mean God himself is contingent.
Jason Pratt said…
True, which is why I prefer "characteristics" when talking about the divine essence.

Still it comes back to what God essentially is: if God is essentially an actively interpersonal reality (i.e. if at least binitarian theism is true), then God is actively self-contingent as well as being fundamental and necessary existence.

That would also mean God essentially is what we otherwise call "love" and "justice" (or in Biblical Greek "fair-togetherness").


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