Leibnitz coined a phrase that sent the philosophical and scientific world on an ontological hunt. That is, to find an explanation as to why there is anything. That phrase is “Why is there something rather than nothing?” The pat Christian answer would be because God created everything. But for a Christian to dialogue with a non-theist on this matter requires something a bit more explanatory.
My purpose here is not to lay out an ontological argument for the existence of God. There are others with much more knowledge and apologetic ability than I, which have spoken to that. I want to look at how that question at least turns one’s thoughts, to reasonably consider the magnitude of such a question, and how it plays out in one’s idea of ‘being’; and why, ultimately, anything should exist at all. After all, God did not have to create anything. It is not something that he needed to do. Existence outside of Himself was and is not necessary.
Let me first begin by addressing a much narrower idea, and one which is still common among some Christian thinking – which is, why human beings exist. I was surprised to hear, on a radio show, a very popular pastor in Southern California, feebly if not heretically, answer this question. A pre-teen girl asked him why God created us. He stated, in his lovable story-time voice, ‘because God was lonely.” I was shocked at the answer. Especially because I respect his biblical views, and for the better part find his teaching to be fairly sound. Maybe he was trying to warm the heart of a little girl, but this was no excuse for making God out to be a lonely old soul. Some kind of a saddened God who was desperately starving for companionship. No, God is and never has been lonely. He lives relationally as a Godhead; where Father, Son, and Holy Spirit have always shared eternal fellowship. The perfect, pure love of divinity is not lacking in anything, much less by having the need to have other creatures fill, what we might think, his bored and or empty heart with loving friendship.
God, therefore; has never been incomplete, nor has he ever had a need for friendship or relationship of any sort, which has not already existed in the co-existence of the Triune bonds of loving fellowship. He exists in the experience of the purest and complete love, in a Trinitarian union, from all eternity.With that said, I will share my musings on ‘Why there is something rather than nothing.”
The answers from science and philosophy, both Christian and atheist, range from the thoughtful to the absurd. I will not attempt, in this short writing, to cover the gamut of explanations. Instead, I will share what, to me, makes it more reasonable to believe that God is the reason why there is something rather than nothing, than to believe some other non-theistic view.
Let’s begin here: What is ‘nothing’? We can say it is the complete absence of everything. No trees, no air, no people, no universe, no molecules, no reason, no consciousness, no God… The problem starts at the outset. We cannot think of nothing. Why? Because as you are thinking, something is happening – thinking! In which case, to think, as Descartes would have it, is to be. And if you are be-ing, then it is reasonable to say that you exist, or at least you are intelligibly conscious of the fact. Therefore; it is more reasonable to believe that an intelligent conscious mind existed prior to the existence of any created thing. Things without consciousness cannot perceive any reality, whether it be something or nothing. Simply stated,
unconscious something’s could never have perceived of conscious anything’s. Things like rocks, numbers, or energy cannot bring into existence conscious life. The materialist struggles with this. Since they do not believe in God, they are without a reasonable explanation for conscious life. It is against our better logic and reason to think that material things like photons and atoms could by some natural mishap bring into being conscious life of any kind. So, unlike the French playwright philosopher, Jean-Paul Sarte, who changed the worldview of an entire generation, and in fact still pervades much of today’s modern worldview; Christianity asserts that essence precedes existence. The materialist, in a no God universe, must first start with something material, mindless, and conscious-less that is in existence already, and thereby find its own essence or reason for it being. Material unconscious things don’t just pop into being by themselves, much less go on to imbue matter with consciousness. Only an intelligent mind with inexplicable power can do that. The Christian finds a reasonable explanation for something, as well as all things, coming into existence as set forth biblically. That God can take matter, as in the dust of the earth, and infuse that matter with consciousness. Both the Christian and the atheist views require faith. The materialist believes that everything that is, has come about through some mindless collision of matter or energy. But in the Christian understanding, thinking had to be first, before something could come from nothing. The gospel of John discloses this clearly in the opening verse.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God.”The word ‘Word’ is the greek word logos, meaning reason, thought, logic. It is descriptive of the second person of the Trinity, Jesus Christ. John’s opening statement is an apologetic to the philosophies of the Greeks. The word Logos was first coined about 600 B.C. by Heraclitus, and made its way down to Plato and the sophists of the apostle John’s day. So the term and its meaning were well known among the Jews and the Greeks. John saw Jesus as the embodiment of everything philosophy had strived to understand in the quest for meaning. Jesus in the minds of the early Christians was the prime source, the initial mover and life giver, creator of all things. So, in order for us to begin to grasp why there is something rather than nothing is to come to a reasonable conclusion that there first had to be a ‘mind’. This mind, according to New Testament teaching is the Logos- who is Jesus Christ, God incarnate.The materialist’s understanding of why there is something rather than nothing is a leap of tremendous faith. They have no repeatable, observable data for their position as to why there is a universe, much less why humans or anything else exists. The big bang may give a scientific explanation how the universe began, but not why it is here. And some are careful to separate the why questions of philosophy from the how questions of science, but in truth they overlap. All non-theist scientists appeal to ‘brute fact’. But in all honesty, it is better termed ‘brute faith’. But because they shy away from anything religious the use of the term ‘brute fact’ is in keeping with their non-theistic assumptions. But let’s not be fooled. What they term as ‘brute fact’ is really ‘brute faith’. They have no explanation other than to postulate or believe that everything came into existence without absolutely anything thinking or initiating that existence. Call it what you like, that is total faith, of the atheist sort.Well, we have barely started to address this probing question of ‘Why there is something rather than nothing’ but I may continue in future posts. Thanks for reading. I must now eat some breakfast or else I may go from something to nothing.
Acts 17:28 “In him we live and move and have our being’.
Copyright © Steve Covarrubias 9/2013