Thursday, November 12, 2020

High School Youth Group, November 8th -- The Catholic Response to Atheism -- Session 3, Proofs of God's Existence, From Contingency

 Discussing the Catholic Response to Atheism, we look today at the proofs of God's existence. In particular, the proof from Contingency - which is the reality that things exist when they don't HAVE to exist. The fact that things exist proves that there must be some creator who exists necessarily.

Listen online [here]!


High School Youth Group – Fall 2020 – The Catholic Response to Atheism

November 8th  - Session 3 – Proofs of God’s Existence, From Contingency

“The fool hath said in his heart: There is no God.”  -Psalm 13:1



I. Review of last class (November 1st – Why Do Atheists Reject God’s Existence)

A. Calendar: November 29th, No Class, Thanksgiving break; December 20th, Last Class of Fall, resuming January 10th and continuing until May 2nd.

B. The two main objections to the existence of God

1. The Problem of Evil

2. “God of the Gaps”



II. The 5 Ways of Proving God’s Existence

1. From Motion = The First Unmoved Mover

(if things move, something must have set them in motion, but this can’t go back forever)

2. From Efficient Causes = The Uncaused Cause

(if things cause, something must give them the power to cause, but this can’t go back forever)

3. From Contingency = The Necessary Being

(if things exist, something must make them exist, but this can’t go back forever)

4. From Gradation of Perfection = The Absolutely Perfect Good

(if things are somewhat good, then something which is perfectly good must make others good)

5. From Order = The Intelligent Designer or, more accurately, the Divine Governor

(things act for a purpose, have a design, someone must have designed them)


[But a further point from these proofs is that they prove what God is not:  1) He is not moved, 2) he is not caused or created, 3) he is not contingent or changeable, 4) he is not imperfect, he is not “more or less” 5) he is not without intelligence nor is he guided by another.]



III. If God created the world, then who created God?  Did God create himself?

1. Nothing can create itself and nothing can cause itself to exist.  In order to create itself, a thing would have to exist before it existed, which is absurd. But this is more than just a question of timeline – you really can’t “pull yourself up by your boot straps.”

2. God did not create himself, and no one created God.

3. God is pure existence, and is “uncaused” – he is not the type of thing that needs to be caused to exist or to be created.  More than saying “he always was” – we say, “he must always be.”



IV. What is “contingency”?

1. Everything we see in the world that does exist, did not have to exist.  The world is, but it didn’t have to be.

2. More than saying “there was a time when it was not,” “even now, it doesn’t have to be.”

3. This is called “contingency” – a thing that is “contingent” is something that doesn’t have to exist, but does in fact exist.

4. When something exists without having to exist, we rightly ask, “Why does it exist?” This leads us immediately to, “Who or what makes this exist?”

5. Examples: A horse shoe, a watch, a house. Better examples: Boiling water, a flying man.



V. “Efficient” causality and how it differs from other forms of causality

1. When a blacksmith makes an horseshoe, he only takes what is already in existence and fashions it into an horseshoe. But, when we say that God made the world, we do not mean simply formed the world out of pre-existing stuff, rather we say that he is the efficient cause for the existence of the world.

2. While one domino can hit another which hits another which hits another, such that the first domino can be destroyed while the later dominos continue to fall in sequence; efficient causality is when the first cause gives the power of act/causation to all the subsequent causes.  How are a cue and pool balls different from a stack of books or from a horse pulling a wagon pulling a cart?

3. The argument isn’t so much “In the beginning, God made the heavens and the earth” – rather, “Even now, as always, God is holding the universe in existence.”  Even if the universe always existed, God would have to be the one making it always exist.



VI. The Proofs from Efficient Causality and from Contingency

A. (These are, technically two different proofs, but they fit well together)

1. Things exist that didn’t have to exist

2. If things exist that didn’t have to exist, something must cause their existence.

3. But if these causes didn’t have to exist, something must cause their existence.

4. But this cannot go on forever.

5. Therefore, there must be some being that causes the existence of all other beings, and this first cause not only exists but must exist necessarily.  This, we call God.


B. Unless we are to suppose that the world is unintelligible, and that there is no logical explanation for cause and effect or for existence, then we must suppose there is a God.  However, if we were to deny the logic of cause and effect as well as to deny the intelligibility of the world as a way of avoiding believing in God, then we would also undermine the whole foundation of science and human reason.



VII. Common misinterpretations of this argument, and “straw men”

1. The most common argument against the proof from efficient causality is to mistakenly think that the believer is asserting that God created the world “in the beginning.” However, this is precisely NOT what we are claiming! We assert that here and now, something has to account for why the world exists – here and now, God must be holding the world in existence.

2. Another common misrepresentation of the proof is to think of the “first cause” as being on the same level as “secondary causes.” The secondary causes do not give a complete explanation of reality, but they themselves need to be explained by “primary causality” or a “first cause.”  Further, this “first cause” is itself “uncaused” because it must exist necessarily.

3. How is this proof different from the “watchmaker argument”?

4. Does this argument prove that God is rational, spiritual, omnipotent, loving? No, but it will be the foundation for further arguments that prove all these things.





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