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"Rational Scientific Theories from Theism"


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Previous: 8.1 Being itself Up: 8. The ‘I am’ Next: 8.3 The Argument from Being

8.2 Assertions that ‘God is X itself’

Postulate 3 is the first in a series of claims that God is X itself. Here X is ‘being’, while other features (such as ‘love’, ‘life’ and ‘wisdom’) will be attributed in later chapters. Such assertions have important roles in theistic metaphysics, and these roles need to be defined explicitly.

Consider a generic assertion of the form “Object G is X itself”. It first implies that, if G exists, it has description X necessarily. It is then part of its nature that G does not merely have description X, but that it does so at all times and in all counterfactual circumstances originating at any time. This does not imply immutable or fixed existence, only that property X is attributed at all times. That is a minimal requirement for any kind of eternal existence, though the actual manner or form of existence could be variable or fluctuating as long as it is always present.

A second component is to state that such a G is not an X exactly like other objects which are Xs, but that G is still essentially involved in the way they are Xs. Here, for example, God is not a ‘being’ precisely like the rest of us are beings, yet (as being itself) God is intimately involved in the way we are beings. God is still a being and still exists but in a different way then we.

From the existence of X-itself, we may deduce that every instance of X is either (a) identical to X-itself, or (b) dependent on X-itself. We conclude that if an object with property X exists completely independently (or ‘in itself’), then it must be identical to X-itself, since (by construction) it cannot be dependent on anything apart from itself. The present case, with X=being and God as being itself, implies that any existing object is either identical to God or dependent on God. If anything exists at all, we could conclude that God exists, but we already postulated that in Postulate 1. What this postulate adds is that God exists eternally and necessarily.

You may dispute these kinds of arguments. You could ask: since this stone is brown, does that mean that brownness-itself exists? Does redness-itself exist? Or evil-itself, since there are many things thought to be evil? And if redness-itself did not exist, why is being-itself treated differently in theism? Theists reply that our argument for X-itself existing is not valid for every X. The argument depends on Postulate 3 for X=being and on later postulates for other Xs. These Postulates are not logically necessary for every possible X.

Alternatively, you could argue that since this stone is a being, and since God is being itself, we should conclude that this stone is God. Theists do not deny the validity of an argument like this. They insist only that it proceeds if the stone is in fact being, itself. That is: the argument is only valid if stones exist independently, eternally and necessarily, since being itself is eternal and necessary. Theists agree that if atoms in the world exist eternally and immutably then they could be said to have or be being itself. In that case, on the basis of Postulate 3 at least, they could be identified with God. This is the sense in which the atomic materialist makes atoms into his God.8.3

Finally, a claimant such as myself has still, with assertions like this, the responsibility of showing that God identified in such a way is identical with the traditional God of the theistic religions. From the religious point of view, it would be a failure if God turned out to be identical to eternal and immutable atoms! Strictly speaking, logically if not theologically, that would be consistent with what has been asserted so far. In that case we could still define God in the manner of this chapter, even though God would not be a single being, and God would be distributed around all the individual atoms that somehow ‘participate’ in being itself. Individual atoms would have, say, instances of ‘being itself’ within themselves and hence be part of God. Further assertions may discount this possibility, but that will have to be the subject of discussion. Any ‘proof of God’, therefore, is not complete until we are satisfied that it is ‘our’ God who we are talking about and not other things such as microscopic atom(s). This is usually the non-trivial part of the argument. It will have to contain a demonstration of how God can be a One and yet multiple objects exist in the world.

Previous: 8.1 Being itself Up: 8. The ‘I am’ Next: 8.3 The Argument from Being

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