Rebutting "You Christians can only argue about Origins but not prove God Exists today!"

I think the problem many apologists have is after giving philosophical arguments for God they are confronted with a tricky problem. That problem is in answering a non-believers questions of, “But where is your “God” today?” I have problems answering this question many times and fall back on the argument from religious experience, which they don’t relate or agree with and the argument from aesthetic Experience (There is the music of Johann Sebastian Bach. Therefore there must be a God. You either see this one or you don’t.-- Peter Kreeft). How can I continue the conversation if a non-believer says Catholics or believers always argue God from the origin point of view? The teleological, cosmological, contingency arguments can only prove a deity but not a personal God that cares for his creation.

How can I stop arguing about origin stories and talk about God of the now?

To sum up the questions:

What philosophical arguments bring God into the present instead of the past?

How can you link the first cause arguments to a personal Christ?

Any help or suggested reading would be appreciated. God Bless.

A few things:

  1. To answer your main question, I believe that if properly understood, all 5 of Aquinas’s 5 ways do what you want in proving God exists today. Check out Edward Feser, he writes on this stuff.

  2. I’d add that especially the argument from motion does just that because every moment potentials need to be actualized not just at the beginning of the universe.

  3. You say that certain arguments can argue for a deity but not a personal God. It depends what you mean here. The teleological argument for example obviously argues for a personal God in the sense that He has an intellect to design. Properly understood most other arguments do as well. Whether or not that God cares about us is a little different though. That is some different philosophilcal reasoning and more theology as well.

  4. You can’t get from a philosophical argument about God to proving that Jesus of Nazereth was in fact the Christ or is in fact God. This is a matter of faith and not philosophy. It takes a different line of reasoning and argumentation to demonstrate this. God’s existence can independently be proven without reference to Christ.

I understand that to form the argument that an eternal being created the universe would require him to continue to exist due to his eternal quality. I don’t see how a first mover argument can be used to explain God’s continued presence and participation in our world or lives. The first mover as I understand it only requires the mover to make the first move. It does not follow that, from my understanding of the argument that the mover stuck around and continued to moved things about.

Thomas’s first three points (first mover, from efficient causes and the reductio argument) all point backards in time, cause or sumpliest forms.

What I was wondering was is there a form of argument that directly argues Gods existance in the present time, not does God by his nature of being the first mover the first cause and the uncaused being impact the world.

Does there exist a proof that concludes: therefore God existance and actions are evident today.

According to Edward Feser, whose blog is here: edwardfeser.blogspot.com/ and who has written on the arguments of Aquinas and spoken on them, all of the 5 ways in fact do prove what you want them to. Feser says that however the arguments from Aquinas are usually misrepresented and misunderstood.

I will say this for sure though: Aquinas did not know based on any scientific or philosophical grounds whether or not the universe had a beginning. Aristotle thought the universe to be eternal. So for Aquinas and Aristotle, the idea that the “first” mover, cause etc. had to be “first” in the past is incorrect because Aristotle thought there was no first in the past and Aquinas thought that this could not be proven from reason alone therefore his arguments are based on the assumption (or at least include the possibility) that the universe is in fact eternal.

The reason I think there can be confusion is that Aquinas’s arguments rely on a per se series of causes rather than a per accidens series of causes. In a per accidens series, first mover means temporally first. IN a per se series, first mover means “essentially” first or more fundamental and that is why there cannot be an infinite regress.

A per se series is one that is acting here and now so the conclusion of the per se series or the “first mover” must be “actualizing potentials” in Aquinas’s language here and now. It is like proving a violin making music has a person causing the music. It matters not if the musical piece had a beginning or how it began, the music being played is a per se series of causes where the musician didn’t necessarily come before the music but he is more fundamental than the music and the music could not exist without the musician. Similarly, Feser argues that Aquinas’s 5 ways prove God just like that. God is the most fundamental being and therefore must constantly exist and be acting in order for anything to exist. It isn’t about getting things started but at every moment sharing in His own existence. Feser would explain better but thats the gist I get

Hi jmisk,

The Prime Mover is the Being that has no cause but is its own cause. All other beings have an essence (nature) that does not necessitate existence. I can describe an airplane as a machine that flies, but it does not necessarily exist. (No so long ago, we had a world without airplanes.) But the Prime Mover is the one Being whose essence is to exist. This applies “now” as if applied “before”.

Time began when He created the world. But God is outside of time. He knows no before or after, only the present. What He “was” “before” time He is now. And He is still creating the world by keeping it in being. He is like a dynamo that supplies electricity. Stop the dynamo and everything stops. Let God take back His creative action and the world disappears into nothingness.

Verbum

I don’t think Feser would agree that " God shares his existence, " a paraphrase of your second to last sentence. Just on the face of it, doesn’t that sound a lot like Pantheism to you? For if God " shared " his existence, then God and his creatures would be one. And that would be wrong.

" God created the heavens and the earth. " In other words God is not " one " with his creation. His creation is entirely other than His own existence. In the S.T., 1, 45, 4, Thomas says : " On the contrary, It is said (Genesis 1:1): “In the beginning God created heaven and earth.” But heaven and earth are subsisting composite things. Therefore creation belongs to them.

I answer that, To be created is, in a manner, to be made, as was shown above (44, 2, ad 2,3). Now, to be made is directed to the being of a thing. Hence to be made and to be created properly belong to whatever being belongs; which, indeed, belongs properly to subsisting things, whether they are simple things, as in the case of separate substances, or composite, as in the case of material substances. For being belongs to that which has being–that is, to what subsists in its own being. "

What Thomas means when he says that created beings " share " existence is that because they all exist, none of them possess the perfection of existence totally, each has a limited amount of existence determined by the limiting demands of their forms. So they " share " in that perfection. It is a created existence they " share. " It is not the Perfect Existence which is the Being of God. It means, that, because God is Existence, only he can give actual existence.

The same can be said of the substence, essence, nature, form of created beings. All of it comes from God. But it is their own because God gave it to them.

Linus2nd

Tom:

Very succinctly said and quite accurate. For, in The Procession of Creatures from God, Cause of All Things, St Thomas says,

“I answer that, It must be said that every being in any way existing is from God. For whatever is found in anything by participation, must be caused in it by that to which it belongs essentially, as iron becomes ignited by fire. Now it has been shown above (Q[3], A[4]) when treating of the divine simplicity that God is the essentially self-subsisting Being; and also it was shown (Q[11], AA[3],4) that subsisting being must be one; as, if whiteness were self-subsisting, it would be one, since whiteness is multiplied by its recipients. Therefore all beings apart from God are not their own being, but are beings by participation. Therefore it must be that all things which are diversified by the diverse participation of being, so as to be more or less perfect, are caused by one First Being, Who possesses being most perfectly.” - Summa Theologica

(My bolding.)

I used to give the example of the actions of an old-time TV set. While operating, every component in the set is operating because the part that began its operation immediately preceded it in a series. Of course, one could assert that there is a prior-in-time aspect to the analogy, but, I ask that the instigation of electric current among the parts, in the TV set, not be considered. Think only of the entire TV set in-operation. In this case, all things within the set are functioning simultaneously, as the man whose arm and hand are pushing the stick that is moving the stone along the ground. (If one does not allow oneself to get too wrapped around the axle in meticulosity about this, the analogy is just fine, and, since we’re not God and cannot perfectly duplicate Him, all we can do is draw analogies.)

God bless,
jd

And that is true, if interpreted correctly. It does not mean that God gives created beings His being - or a bit of it so as to say that they " share " in God’s own existence. That is Pantheism. It is also a violation of the Principle of Contradiction, for a thing cannot be and not be in the same respect at the same time. So if their being is God’s being, they are not real created beings.

As Thomas says in S.T. 1, 45, 4 ( my post # 6 above ) God is the cause of created substances, which includes existence. And to be created, means also to be absolutely other than God, even in their " act of existence. "

And again in S.C.G., Book 1, ch 26 Thomas says: "… Chapter 26

THAT GOD IS NOT THE FORMAL BEING OF ALL THINGS

[1] We are now able to refute the error of certain persons who said that God is nothing other than the formal being of each thing.

[2] This being is divided into the being of substance and the being of accident. Now, we have proved that the divine being is neither the being of substance nor that of accident. God, therefore, cannot be that being by which each thing formally is…"
dhspriory.org/thomas/ContraGentiles1.htm#26

Or again, in 1 Sentences, Distinction 37, Ques 1, Thomas says : " Solution: I answer that it should be said that God is essentially in all things, not nonetheless so that he is mixed together with things as if he were a part of any thing…"
www4.desales.edu/~philtheo/loughlin/ATP/Sententiae/ISentd37q1a1.html

So when Thomas says created beings " share " in existence, he means they share in the common note or perfection of existence God has given to each created extent. They are said to " share " or " participate, " not because they share in God’s own Existence, but becuase they each have a limited or imperfect existence, which is the same type of " act " that each other created being has been given, but differing in its perfection, as determined by the limiting potency of their respective forms.

Now since they each have the same perfection, differing only in perfection, none can have caused that perfection. It can only be caused by that Being who is Perfect Existence. But this applies to their entire substances and all that goes into the make up of their substances, includling matter, form, and existence, their whole and entire being. They " share " nothing with God. But they do have a real Realation with God, as effects which are caused by Him.

Linus2nd

Linus2:

I’m not sure that is correct. It seems that the thrust of these statements has more to do with matter, that is, the material part of non-self-subsistent being. But, once God creates the soul, it is, from then on, eternal.

Look: God is infinite. Therefore, there is no place anywhere where there is not God. There is no blank space, or bubble of emptiness that could contain a created being, nor does God displace Himself. God reconfigures the point particles of primary matter, that already exist, into something man-like (or woman-like), then imbues it with Form, the essential and living part of a being that we like to call the “soul.” It is not matter, because, as we see, matter corrupts.

I can’t say that the matter, or primary matter, was created at an earlier time, as it is not subject to time: until coupled with Form. But, according to St. Thomas, it is as though undifferentiated primary matter, is already in place at the moment God creates a soul for it for the matter has an appetite for the form, as the good Saint says. This is obviously difficult to address when subservient to time, as we are. But, it’s less restrictive than thinking of entire human beings displacing any part of God, or being created anticipatory to motion.

God bless,
jd

The reason I raised the point is because of this startement by TomD123 : " God is the most fundamental being and therefore must constantly exist and be acting in order for anything to exist. It isn’t about getting things started but at every moment sharing in His own existence. Feser would explain better but thats the gist I get. "

Of course God is present in all things but not as " sharing " their being. That statement is absolutely wrong. We do not " share " God’s being and He does not " share " ours. That is Pantheism!

You did not address that error. And, FYI, prime matter has no separate existence, God creates entire substances, which includes their matter, forms, and their act of existence. Prime matter is the ultimate substrate of all material substances.

Reread my post keeping these comments in mind.

Linus2nd

1- Some arguments deal only with origin, like Kalaam’s (or some versions of it), but not all.

2- Arguments like the argument from contingency and several cosmological arguments DO NOT, in fact dealy only with origins.

Take the argument from contingecy: it states that God is NOT CONTINGENT… So God could have not ‘disappeared’ just like that, it would contraddict the argument.

Most ‘classical theism’ cosmological arguments conclude and assert that God is not ‘just the origin’ of the universe but ‘without God the universe could not continue to exist today’.

So the claim *“You Christians can only argue about Origins but not prove God Exists today!” *is a wrong statement based on ignorance of theist arguments.

I would urge people to study the various arguments carefully and correctly.

3- "The teleological, cosmological, contingency arguments can only prove a deity but not a personal God that cares for his creation. "

That is also wrong! The reason is the same as above. If you read Aquinas (not only the Summa Theol., which is just a ‘summa’, ie summary, but also the Summa Contra Gentiles and several other works) you see that his arguments for God do indeed lead to the Personal God of Theism and nowhere else.

The same goes for many other philosophers and theologians in Classical theism. They never did argue for ‘there is some kind of deity’, but ‘there is a GOD’ intended as the God of theism, not some deist conception.

Again one must study the arguments carefully.

3- Also the question “But where is your “God” today?” is somewhat stupid to ask a Christian. Christianity states that God incarnated in jesus Christ and that Christ leads the Church.

It is stupid to think that Christianity has only arguments for the existence of God and nothing else.

Sure in ‘is there a God?’ debates only those arguments tend to show up, but theology and philosphy or religion contains much more than that.

4-

How can I stop arguing about origin stories and talk about God of the now?

Read the Gospel.

Also most philosophers and theologians dealt with ‘experiencing God here and now’, they did not just focus in arguments for the existence of God.

As a matter of facr if your read the Summa Theol. the section devoted to proving the existence of God is a very small portion indeed! Aquinas pays more attention to that subject in some other works, but his work in general dealt with more subjects than just arguments for God or even Natural Theology.

Check out my response to Gospel of Chaos, and his response to the problem of evil, which I believe is here the nagging question.

All the posts provided thus far are rambling, and completely off the point, which explains the inability of Christians to give any sensible/reasonable answer to this problem.

The problem of a personal God is not unrelated to the response I gave to Gospel of Chaos. God is distant only by reason of our own distance from God. We will not find God until we on our own initiative, draw closer to Him. He will not force our hand in any manner. There is a similar response to the argument from evil, which I gave to Gospel of Chaos, just posted a few minutes ago.

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