Is God the luckiest being in existence?


#1

This is not meant to be a flippant remark (but you must agree it makes for a catchy title :slight_smile: )

One concept that I have always struggled with is that God is neccessarily eternal and existant. Sometimes I find theists use this just as a way of stopping dead the perfectly valid question 'If the universe has to have a creator then who or what created the creator (and so on ad infinitum). As a way of preventing infinite regress it is an understandable, if not necessarily reasonable, argument.

In my experience it is also often used in conjunction with the argument that the universe is inexplicably complex and obviously designed (Paley’s watchmaker argument), or the argument from fine tuning. When countered with the observation that God must therefore be more complex and designed than his creations and therefore require a designer himself one is met with the rejoinder that ‘no that is ridiculous because he is quite simple really and you can’t ask questions about who created God because you just can’t’.

If that is the case is it then permissible to say (in the same way that the theist can point to the fine tuning argument and say ‘what are the odds that the parameters of the universe are such that a slight deveation in any of them would render the universe unfit for intelligent life’ ) ‘what are the odds that a self-existent being will be perfectly loving, kind, honest, just etc… ?’ such that a slight deviation in any of them (e.g. a little bit unloving or just a little bit unfair etc…) would render him capable of treating his creation quite badly while never being less than perfect?

As for the title of the thread - if God is self-existent and eternal then I contend (not entirely in jest) that he is the luckiest being ever as he has won the lottery of lotteries (I wonder what that would look like in Greek alongside the age of ages :slight_smile: ). He can never be wrong, incomplete, brought to account, etc… And what is 33 years on earth plus a death that was no worse than that of many other criminals in the Roman period compared to his eternal status of blessedness and glory.

In one sense God cannot be said to be ‘lucky’ to be the most powerful being in existence because his probability of being who he is (if he exists at all) is exactly 1; so luck doesn’t come into it.

If I am in danger of bringing the board into disrepute I will withdraw this thread but I am genuinely interested in hearing your replies/rebuttals.


#2

I can almost hear the gears whirring in your brain. :smiley: As someone who knows God somewhat personally (from time to time) I’m struck by the same awe and same thoughts of “'how can this be?” and “How lucky can I be that God is like He is?!!!”.

It’s an absolutely stunning experience/concept. Also, His (not that ‘He’ is a man - I say ‘His’ through simple need of pronoun) perfect love washes into me as through osmosis. Indivisible light, wholeness - without flaw.

Created flaw for contrast.

I think you laid out the philosophical points fairly well. Complexity, virtually NO chance of all this happening randomly, no chance as in, NO ONE would even put money on odds like the ones I’ve seen guesstimated.

Still many questions to be answered.


#3

Hi Jeff!

Jeff: One concept that I have always struggled with is that God is necessarily eternal and existent.

Tom: Do you have any problems with the notion of necessary existence per se? That is, do you dispute the logic or meaningfulness of the concept?

Jeff: Sometimes I find theists use this just as a way of stopping dead the perfectly valid question “If the universe has to have a creator then who or what created the creator” (and so on ad infinitum). As a way of preventing infinite regress it is an understandable, if not necessarily reasonable, argument.

Tom: I’ve heard the same argument. Yeah. As you recall it here it’s not a good argument. Properly formed, though, the argument says:

  1. Everything that begins to exist has a cause of its existence.
  2. The universe began to exist.
  3. Therefore, the universe has a cause of its existence.

There’s more to add, but that’s the important part.

That’s why I ask, Do you dispute the very notion of necessary existence? If you do, then all entities exist contingently, in which case we face the infinite regress. But if you grant the meaningfulness of necessary existence, then you shouldn’t have any problems with the argument above.

I’ve not heard of anyone attempting to deny the conclusion by arguing that ‘necessary existence’ as such is impossible. Most claim that premise 2 is false. They’ll say the universe exists necessarily. So the attribute to the universe the kind of existence theists want to attribute to God. That way they avoid having to posit a cause of the universe. Or they’ll agree with premise 2 but deny the universal applicability of the law of cause and effect, in which case the universe did have a beginning but it has no cause. It just—poof—popped into existence ‘uncaused’.

I’m not making this or that argument. I’m just wondering if you concede the meaningfulness of the categories at play, namely, ‘necessary existence’, ‘contingent existence’, and the applicability of the law of cause and effect.

Jeff: In my experience it is also often used in conjunction with the argument that the universe is inexplicably complex and obviously designed (Paley’s watchmaker argument), or the argument from fine tuning. When countered with the observation that God must therefore be more complex and designed than his creations and therefore require a designer himself, one is met with the rejoinder that ‘no that is ridiculous because he is quite simple really and you can’t ask questions about who created God because you just can’t’.

Tom: Well, arguments from design (if they work at all, and I’m no expert on them) would apply, I should think, to entities which are caused or come into being. The whole point of such arguments from design I thought is to reason from the high level of complexity in contingent entities to the need for a cause that best explains the complexity. But to apply the argument from design to an uncaused, necessary being like God? Doesn’t seem applicable. I mean, I’m not sure it follows that if a contingent, highly complex universe requires an explanation for its being the way it is, the explanation itself must evidence a higher level complexity which likewise requires an explanation IF this explanation is a necessary being. Why think that? A necessary being by definition doesn’t require an explanation outside itself for why or how it is what it is, right?

T


#4

Tom,

This is just a quick post to say I have read your replies with interest. It might take me a while to respond as this is an area that I have not thought too deeply about until now (and don’t have a stock set of answers to - which is a good thing because I will have to do some reading and thinking :slight_smile: ).

Thanks for the thoughtful and well laid out post.


#5

Take your time Jeff. No hurry. Just tossing ideas about.

T


#6

Having now started the mind numbing process of trying to do philosophy 101 over one weekend (and believe me my mind is now about as numb as a mind has ever been :slight_smile: ) I find myself solidifying in my agnosticism (as the advanced arguments on both sides are frankly beyond me - must be age).

However, this is a site that seems to have crystalised some things (I’m not saying its conclusions are right)

qsmithwmu.com/time_began_wit … _point.htm

It seems I can say that I don’t have a problem with an entity that has an attribute of necessary existance but that I have no way of determining whether it is a personal being or an impersonal singularity-type-thingy (I only read the article two or three times ). I think what I do find somehow flawed is the reasoning that - if the universe had a begining then the timeless agent of that beginning has to be the Christian triune God (why not Allah or Bramah etc…).

Anyway I will try and address your other points before too long.


#7

Yo Jeff-

Yeah, Quintin Smith. I’m a bit familiar with him. Read a few things of his. He and Bill Craig have debated quite a bit I think and their debates are accessible online. You’re right, it can all get mind numbing after a while!

But about solidifying into agnosticism, let me suggest that knowing how much certainty to expect can help. I mean, the God-question for example is a good case in point. I don’t think there’s any ‘proving’, objectively, in the absolute sense that a personal, triune God exists. But then again, neither is there any ‘proving’, objectively, in an absolute sense that such a God doesn’t exist. But I’m not sure that means ‘I’ can’t know, subjectively, that such a God exists. And maybe that’s part of the deal. Not sure. I guess I’m saying that perhaps we ought to be aiming at a ‘reasonable faith’ instead of ‘proofs’. It’s ‘reasonable’ because there are good reasons (though no absolute proofs) for thinking such a God exists, and it’s a ‘faith’ because what actually puts us in touch existentially/experientially with God is faith or trust.

So we make a mistake if we look for a knock out argument that overwhelms us with reason to believe/relate to God (so to speak) and leaves us no reasonable grounds to choose not to do so. There’s got to be some ‘room’ in our minds (some ‘epistemic distance’, since we’re in Phil 101!) for making either choice rational and responsible. So there’s enough evidence out there to believe. But there’s enough evidence to discount belief.

So you seem relatively comfortable with the idea that the universe came into being at some point in time and that it was brought into being by some necessary being.

Dude, that’s saying a LOT. It doesn’t get you the ‘Christian’ God right off the bat, but it’s no small thing to agree that there is some necessary existent who/which is the cause of the universe’s existent.

Deciding whether the vision of the Christian triune God, or Allah, or Brahman better explains what can reasonably be said about that first cause is another question, right. I think the MOST important question to answer about that first-cause is whether it is an ‘it’ or a ‘who’, an impersonal entity, or a personal subject. And again, there’s not going to be a knock-down, objectively overwhelming proof for one or the other. But there will be evidence enough to justify the sort of trust that’s at the heart of an experience that grounds a subjective confidence in the personal God.

Clear as mud, eh? Ha!

Tom


#8

Perhaps this is the essence of ‘no-one comes to me except the father drag him’ (which I am told is a reasonable substitute for the usual word draw). :wink:

Also there are the references in Paul’s letters to vessels of honour and vessels of dishonour.

At the end of the day none of us know with any great confidence what (if anything) lies beyond death although this would be great…

youtube.com/watch?v=XFGrQMD6Uqc

:slight_smile:


#9

Jeff,

I was going to take your question at its par value and answer “yes and no” in relation to the notion of luck in Nature; with an essay along that line.

But I see you’re actually asking another set of questions. :mrgreen: (Just wanted to mention in passing, your topical header question is a good one, too. But it requires a bunch of other questions to have been answered first, including the ones you were actually wanting to talk about. :slight_smile: )

Running kind of late, so I feel I like I’m only adding “me, too”, but…

I agree with your general criticisms in your first post, btw; as well as with some of the rejoinders already posted up by others so far.

This entity is what I call the Independent Fact; and I find that the profession of one IF is a common agreement among philosophical naturalists (theistic or atheistic) and philosophical supernaturalists (theistic or atheistic), over against infinite regression and philosophies involving a limited number of IFs (typically two, such as in the two most historically popular cosmological dualisms: God/Anti-God, and God/Nature.)

Now, as Tom rightly remarks, the there is a type of cosmological argument (the ‘kalam’ if I recall correctly) that turns upon the notion that the evident field of Nature began to exist: a claim that personally I’m dubious has been (or even could be) properly established scientifically. But supposing for purposes of argument that the universe began to exist and thus exists in dependence upon some more fundamental system of reality; you are correct in noting that this by itself would only involve (what amounts to) supernaturalism at best: it wouldn’t necessarily involve theism. (This is where the fine-tuning arguments and other AfDs would often be marshaled, as evidence for rational design. I have major technical problems with applying AfDs to this topic, btw.)

Moreover, you’re very correct about criticizing the propensity of apologists to jump not only from supernaturalism to theism, but also from one kind of supernaturalistic theism to a very particular kind. :unamused:

But some apologists are competent enough to note the limits of how far those particular arguments can go. And some apologists do bother to put together some kind of comprehensive case, of which this would be one part.

I have to say, though, that I’ve found precious few examples of a progressing synthetic case being made, even by apologists who realize that some kind of comprehensive case has to be made. Even those authors tend to salad-bar their presentation: here’s a chapter on foundationalism, here’s a chapter on ontological arguments, here’s a chapter on morality, here’s a chapter on AfDs, here’s a chapter on the argument from reason maybe–oddly not a popular one, though that’s the one Lewis keyed off when writing MaPS. :wink:

(Which of course is why I finally had to sit down and write out a progressing synthetic case myself, for better or for worse. :mrgreen: A lot for the better, as it happened… :smiley: Lewis’ MaPS is the only apologetic work I know of that tries to do the same thing in a linked progression; pretty well, too, but I wanted more topical depth. :slight_smile: )


#10

JeffA, I know of no way to explore if God always existed or somehow sprang out of nothing apart from reading the Bible. In short, I think it’s more reasonable that the Trinity always existed. In a similar topic, I worked on a paper about probability in a World Ensemble.

iscid.org/boards/ubb-get_topic-f-10-t-000106.html


#11

Just another quick holding post to say Jason and Jim thanks for the posts. These discussions are really making me think about why I think as I do. I will make a longer post when I have digested it all -

Jason, I do want to get back to the original premise of the thread (how fortunate for God that he got to be the supreme being without having to work at it). Also I am glad that you felt that the other issues that started to come up have some fundamental relevance to the topic.


#12

Jeff: Jason, I do want to get back to the original premise of the thread (how fortunate for God that he got to be the supreme being without having to work at it).

Just to jump in real quick at the end here…

I guess I’m wondering what sense it makes to attribute the existence of what exists necessarily to good fortune. Seems like a categorical mistake to me.

T


#13

I agree (and would have noted that myself in an eventual essay. :sunglasses: ) But there are still ways to consider the relationship of such an entity to probabilistic events. This has strong bearing to considering the relationship of the Independent Fact to a derivative Nature that exists in some kind of probabilistic flux.


#14

Unless by ‘what exists necessarily’ you mean something impersonal I still disagree. What I am postulating is that there are attributes of God that make his existential experiences far better than ours without working for it because all of these attributes just exist in him. Of course this is where an agnostic such as myself hopes for the truth of Universalism - because it is the only way I can see out for someone like myself who seems to just not be able to believe except by being convinced that God is responsible for restoring everything in his great experiment.

Now Paul of course would be quick to slap me down (as he was so quick at slapping so many down) by reminding me that I am a lump of clay over which the potter has absolute authority and right and who can fashion me however he likes and for whatever purpose (honour/dishonour).

This snippet from biggergod.com/potter2.html seems a fair summation of the potter aspect of God (Romans 9)

I do note the irony of being the perfect example of what this passage is talking about (though I don’t want to be God I just want to be left alone :wink: )
However, just because the Bible says this doesn’t necessarily make it true.


#15

But even if someone does hold to the infallibility of the bible (I don’t) you still have Paul saying “We see in part and prophesy in part” Plus he is recorded as saying that he heard “things which were not lawful to be uttered” and Jesus’ words “I have many things to say to you but you cannot bear to hear them now. But when the Spirit of truth is come he will guide you into all truth”.

Of course these verses are a heretics dream :smiley: :laughing:

That’s because your conscience is from God and it’s speaking God’s truth to you (need to insert a thumbs up emoticon here but I don’t see one to insert). That’s how people in the church get here (to UR) in spite of the bad translating and the many centuries of tradition claiming it’s not true.


#16

Maybe he would; maybe he wouldn’t. The original context of Paul’s quote, from Isaiah, involved God rebuking counselors of hopelessness for preaching that He would abandon people He had wholly ruined for their sin and not restore them!

There are several aspects of Rom 9, which would gell very well with the original context of Paul’s quotation, too. :slight_smile:

But you’re correct about how traumatic it can be to realize that one way or another we are only derivative creatures, and can only ever be derivative creatures–meaning we have to relate to Someone (or something) greater than us upon Whom (or which) we are wholly dependent. (One hardly needs to be religious in any theistic way to face that numinousity. But religious feelings and behaviors of some sort–even to rebellion against It whatever It is, in various ways!–do tend to follow in the wake of that cognitive shift; for better or for worse.)


#17

Tom: I guess I’m wondering what sense it makes to attribute the existence of what exists necessarily to good fortune. Seems like a categorical mistake to me.

Jason: I agree (and would have noted that myself in an eventual essay). But there are still ways to consider the relationship of such an entity to probabilistic events.

Tom: For sure, Jason. I agree that a necessarily existing God may nevertheless relate contingently (and probabilistically) to Creation. I was just speaking with regard to God’s existence per se (and whatever attributes God necessarily instantiates). It’s in this sense that I think it’s a mistake to speak of God “being fortunate.”


Jeff: Unless by ‘what exists necessarily’ you mean something impersonal I still disagree.

Tom: I guess I’m having trouble tracking just what exactly you’re objecting to. As far as what exists ‘necessarily’ (whether impersonal or personal, doesn’t matter), it wouldn’t make sense to speak of its existence or any other of its necessary attributes as “fortunate.” For X to be “fortunate” with respect to y, it follows that X might have been other than it is with respect to y. But if X is “necessary” with respect to y, then by definition X cannot be other than it is with respect to y. So the necessity of X with respect to y precludes X’s being fortunate with respect to y.

But with Jason, I don’t doubt that with respect to relations God has with creation which might be other than they are, there might be room here to describe God as “fortunate.” But to say that God is fortunate to be God? I don’t know how to relate to the idea meaningfully.

Jeff: What I am postulating is that there are attributes of God that make his existential experiences far better than ours without working for it because all of these attributes just exist in him.

Tom: OK, I think I follow ya. So God has the necessary experience, say, of infinitely intense love and interpersonal relationality (assuming a trinitarian God). And no matter how screwed up the world gets, nothing about the world (or God’s relations to/with the world) can impinge upon the utter bliss and satisfaction of God’s own experience of himself.

If this is kinda close to what you’re getting at, then I’d just say that I don’t see the problem with a God whose own existence is an endless source of joy and satisfaction that cannot be surpassed.

Jeff: Of course this is where an agnostic such as myself hopes for the truth of Universalism - because it is the only way I can see out for someone like myself who seems to just not be able to believe except by being convinced that God is responsible for restoring everything in his great experiment.

Tom: I think I’m tracking with ya. I’d agree (I think) that we have a huge problem on our hands if we supposed God to be something like necessary unsurpassable love AND also suppose that ECT is true. It’s problematic because if we say God is self-sufficient love, it would seem to follow that God doesn’t need to create at all. Creation is an unnecessary act (of grace). But if such creating entails even the possibility of ECT, then it seems inconsistent to say a God of such love would risk the eternal well-being of creatures he doesn’t need to create in the first place. I wouldn’t know how to call such an act an expression of love and grace (if creating is supposed to be a loving and gracious thing for God to do).

I agree with you that UR avoids this problem. If despite the risk of temporary suffering, God knows that eventually all are redeemed and won, and that all creaturely suffering will not be worth comparing to the glory of a fully redeemed universe, then we’re able to make sense of creation as an act of grace by which God wishes to bring us into the experience of divine bliss regardless of whatever temporary suffering is met along the way. This, I think, IS a loving thing to do, and that’s why the UR question is so important (to me).

Jeff: Now Paul of course would be quick to slap me down…

Tom: That all depends. I think Paul would agree that ECT is incompatible with a loving God’s creating unnecessarily. So I don’t think he’d be slapping you down at all. I take Paul to be slapping down the Jewish presumption (of his day) that simply because they were descended from Abraham, God was under contractual (convenantal) obligation to save Jews. There’s more to Rom. 9, but that’s another thread.

And I like the idea that the clearest UR passage comes from Paul (Col. 1). Not bad for a mean guy who slaps people down! ;o)

Tom


#18

I think we’re all just as lucky (in proportion to the greatness of our being) that God exists, God included. Everyone wins.